In memoriam: Richard Eisler, professor of psychology in the College of Science
February 18, 2019
The Virginia Tech Department of Psychology is mourning the death of its longtime colleague, Professor Richard Eisler, who died on April 23, 2018.
Eisler joined the department in 1977 as a full professor. He was a prolific researcher who came to Virginia Tech to help the department build its emerging program in cognitive behavior therapy and clinical psychological science.
His published works during his career include books, chapters, and scholarly journal articles, all of which addressed his specialty areas on the effects and treatment of social skills deficiencies and the effects of male gender role stress. This latter work is highly cited and Eisler is viewed as one of the pioneers in this area of research. He taught and supervised graduate students and undergraduate students for 25 years, up until his retirement from the department in 2002.
Michel Hersen, a former graduate student compatriot of Eisler’s at SUNY-Buffalo who served as professor and dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Pacific University, said that he and Eissler “teamed up with Peter Miller and launched the Progress in Behavior Modification series, eventuating in 27 volumes. He was an excellent clinician, teacher, researcher, and an innovative psychologist during a long career in academia.”
Colleagues at Virginia Tech’s College of Science, including Professors George Clum, Scott Geller, Richard Winett, and Thomas Ollendick said Eisler left a great impact on the field of cognitive behavior therapy and clinical psychological science. Along with Clum and Geller, who were in the Department of Psychology when Eisler arrived, Winett and Ollendick were hired in 1979 and 1980, respectively, to help advance these efforts.
“I am deeply thankful to Richard for giving me truly the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ to have a career at Virginia Tech with great colleagues and to see our department and the clinical science program rise to national prominence,” Winett said. Ollendick added that Eisler’s early years were critical to the growth of the clinical psychology program and to its eventual recognition in 2017 by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies as “the Outstanding Clinical Training Program” in the nation.
Todd Moore, associate dean for graduate studies and professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, and a former student of Eisler’s, said, “I was fortunate to be mentored by someone who staunchly believed in the value of critical thinking and developing and exploring sound theoretical questions. While he was fondly known for not mincing words or being effusive with praise, he cared deeply about the growth and success of his mentees. These qualities, along with his particular brand of humor, will long be remembered and cherished by all of us.”
Since his retirement, Eisler continued to live in Blacksburg, where he enjoyed biking, gardening, photography, and delivering pro bono clinical services to those in need. He was also an avid car buff and, in his spare time, learned to race his Porsche and BMW sports cars. In his later years, Eisler became interested in horseback riding, especially in exotic environments such as Costa Rica, said Clum.
Eisler left his mark on many in the psychology department, at Virginia Tech, and in the community. He is missed by his many students, friends, and colleagues.