Well-respected professor greatly missed by many

By Allison Price
On February 28, 2014

ASU lost a beloved professor, Dr. Robert R. Mowrer, Friday, Feb. 22.

Mowrer had been at ASU since 1988 and was a well-known psychology professor.

"He was very well known on campus and very well liked," Psychology, Sociology and Social Work Department Chair Dr. James Forbes said.

Mowrer graduated with a bachelor's degree at Susquehanna University in 1978.

He then received his master's degree at the University of New Mexico in 1982. Two years later he received his doctoral degree.

"Most of us in the faculty and department who had the good fortune to work with Dr. Mowrer considered him one of the most talented and unique colleagues that we have ever been around," said Bill Davidson, former department chair and longtime friend. "The topics that he was assigned to teach had to do with statistics and research methods. In the field of psychology, those are the most difficult things to teach. Yet Dr. Mowrer was right at the top, in terms of most popular teacher."

Forbes said Mowrer's job is not easily replaceable. It takes a long time to develop the skills he had, and for now, the department is working through it the best they can.

Mowrer's true passion was classical learning theories, according to his biography on  ASU's website.

Forbes said he remembers when Mowrer had a laboratory of rats that he used to test his learning theories on.

Davidson said he also remembers Mowrer's passionate personality, not only in his work, but in his classes and interactions with students.

"From what I could see, there was nothing he enjoyed doing more in work than his teaching sessions," Davidson said. "He always looked forward to them. He always relished in the moment when he was in them. I could tell by walking in the hallways that he was in another world when talking to his students."

Aside from being compassionate about the subjects he taught, Forbes said Mowrer was quite a character with a great sense of humor. He was also the type of person who likes pranks.

Outside of their relationship within ASU, Davidson and Mowrer had a great friendship that lasted 20 years, Davidson said.

"Rob had a high interest in shooting and we went shooting a few times," he said.

Davidson said Mowrer had four pillars he stood by when it came to his teaching success.

"One, he tried to keep it fun for both himself and his students," he said. "Two, he always tried to keep what he was teaching meaningful to the students. Three, his classes stood for being deep, and he tried to provoke students to think about what it is he just talked about. And four, he always tried to get better. He would spend time thinking about how could he do that topic better. To me, it is incredible that someone who has taught a topic hundreds of times is still thinking, 'How can I do that better?'"

Forbes and Davidson said they were stunned and shocked when they heard about Mowrer's passing.

"He was just a pillar of the department, and if you take the pillar out of the department, then the department is weakened," Forbes said. "His death has affected a broad section of ASU. We will come out of the other side eventually, but right now it is very difficult."

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