$3.5 donation will fund major expansion of psychology museum
National Psychologist Vol 23, No.5 , pp 1, 3.
Paula E. Hartman-Stein, Ph.D.
Washington, D.C. – A $3.5 million donation will allow the Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio, to more than quadruple its size and create a quality museum for its exhibits.
The donation from former APA President Nicholas Cummings, Ph.D., and his wife, Dorothy, will allow the transformation from 1,700 square feet to 7,000 square feet to begin in October.
In the intimate dining room of an historic private club during the APA convention here, Michael Sherman, Ph.D., senior vice president, provost and chief operating officer of the University of Akron, announced the news to a hushed audience of 30 people that included many past presidents of APA and other founding members of the center.
The center was established in the 1960s in a small office of a former faculty member, John Popplestone, Ph.D., followed by a move to the basement of a former Akron department store, then to a former warehouse donated to the university by the Roadway Express trucking company.
According to Ted Curtis, architect and vice president of capital planning for the university, the new center will include a reading room to house the library and rare book collection, an art gallery, offices and a vastly expanded gallery space.
“The total project will take on a very professional and organized space,” Curtis said.
The gift from the Cummings Foundation is in addition to the Cummings’ donation several years ago of $1.5 million dollars. The new center, renamed the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Center for the History of Psychology, is slated to be completed within 17 months.
“The donation will enable dedicated reading and research space and offer unparalleled opportunities for enhanced academic inquiry by visiting scholars and students. It will allow for public display of many rare and unique objects and materials housed within the center and an endowment for a full time associate director position within the center,” said Sherman.
Donald Freedheim, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Case Western Reserve, who also has supported the center and is a member of its advisory board, said, “It is important to preserve the history of the profession to understand the roots of the field.”
Ludy Benjamin, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Texas A&M University and historical researcher, has been coming to the archives since 1975. “It is the major source of scholarship of the history of the profession. The gold standards of the center are the papers of famous psychologists, such as David Shakow, the architect of the scientist- practitioner model,” he said.
When asked why the foundation made such a generous donation, Cummings said, “The history of psychology is no longer taught in doctoral programs. New psychologists know nothing about what it took to shape the profession.”
According to Cummings, at the end of WWII, there were only 200 practitioners of psychology in the nation and of the 200 only five had doctorates. “We have come a long way since then. Those of us who were pioneers were faced with a profession that had no licensure, no social recognition. We were mavericks, but we created a profession that I am now proud to see. We are privileged that the history of psychology can be preserved forever or otherwise it would fade and nobody would know.”
Cummings told the dinner crowd how he met David Baker, Ph.D., director of the center. “One day I got a call from a Dr. Baker who said that during graduate school his clinical professor said, ‘Remember this name, Nicholas Cummings, because he is the devil incarnate.’ He wondered how I got that label, so he looked up my history and my accomplishments. We met, we bonded and worked together ever since.”
According to Benjamin, the “devil incarnate” label came about because Cummings always pushed the envelope, starting with founding the first school of professional psychology, his work at Kaiser Permanente, his founding of American Biodyne and most recently the development of the doctorate of behavioral health degree.
“Nick always saw the way things ought to go, everyone else was comfortable with the way things were. I have enormous respect for him.”
Dorothy Cummings, Nick’s wife of 66 years and a former social worker, summed up why she thinks the center is worthy of their support. “Because we have lived the history of psychology, it is important, and it feels so good to support the center that will be living on for generations to come for psychologists and many others.”