John Arrowood 1935 – 2012
Some memories of John Arrowood: A valued departmental colleague
John J. Furedy
Emeritus Professor of Psychology
University of Toronto
In 1967 when I arrived as a new assistant professor to the University of Toronto psychology department, John was one of my senior colleagues, having come in 1965. The first thing I knew about him is that his PhD was from the Minnesota psychology department, which I thought to be the strongest American department: it could not only boast of being an empirical research “data factory”, but had a number of excellent conceptually oriented faculty, such as Paul Meehl (famous for his distinction between ‘intervening variables” and “hypothetical constructs”) and David Lykken (the indefatigable foe of the lie detector, and a witty writer of controversial papers). John used to quip when asked why he moved to Toronto, that he wanted to move south.
When I got to know John better, a feature that stood out was his great ability as a teacher of undergraduates. John was famous for the erudition of his lectures, but his sense of humour was legendary in a department known for its sense of humour. On learning that some students complained that he spoke “too perfectly” his retort was: “Well, what do they want me to do, stutter?”
Also, in his multiple-choice tests on the mysteries of social psychology, he would insert at least one item that required students to know that in Casablanca Rick said “Play it”, not “Play it again” or “Play it again Sam”.
While serving on a number of his doctoral students’ thesis committees, I observed John’s ability to educate our graduate students. In contrast to the American system, the U. of T. system in those days had examiners who were independent of the supervisor, so it was not good enough for students to simply echo their supervisors’ position. It was very clear to me that John’s students were truly educated by him. They were his students and not his disciples.
However, although our areas of specialization (social psychology and experimental psychophysiology, respectively) were rather far apart, we did belong to one interest group which, after the “Ebbinghaus Empire” (devoted to memory, meeting weekly), was, and continues to be the department’s second oldest. I refer to the 12-1 pm bridge group which started its Monday-to-Friday meetings in 1968, and still meets, though less frequently. John was a founding member of this group, and many a good game and entertaining session we had with him.
More seriously, in his stint as Undergraduate Secretary John made a critical contribution to the department. I recall several occasions when I discussed various difficult issues in undergraduate evaluation with him, after which I modified my root-and-branch policy. John was not the most “visible” of the faculty in terms of citation counts, but I think he was one of the very wisest.