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Psychology Professor David Glenwick, Champion of Community Health, Dies at 71

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Professor David Glenwick, Ph.D., a longtime member of the Department of Psychology and a prolific scholar and social justice advocate, died on July 27 after living with lymphatic cancer for more than 11 years, said his son Michael Glenwick. He was 71.

“David was a wonderful man and a good friend,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Among his colleagues, he was known to be a provocative thinker who advanced the discipline.”

Glenwick was known for his work in community and preventive psychology, clinical child psychology, and developmental disabilities. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester in 1972 and joined the Fordham faculty at Rose Hill in 1982. He held a variety of leadership roles until his retirement just last year. He directed the department’s graduate program in clinical psychology and served as co-coordinator of its specialization in clinical child and family psychology.

Glenwick edited six books and wrote more than 125 book chapters and articles, among them a co-authored paper from 1978 titled “Physical Attractiveness and Social Contact in the Singles Bar,” which examined communal behavior of heterosexuals in their natural dating habitat. One of his coauthors, Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D., is now director of the Center for Community Research at DePaul University. He recalled that when Glenwick presented their initial findings at a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, he played disco music in the background to set the mood.

But while the subject matter was amusing and took the mainstream media by storm (with some of the findings featured as questions on Hollywood Squares), the field research methods developed for the study were far more complex, consequential, and groundbreaking than the title suggests. Jason said that at the time most community research data was collected by undergraduate psychology majors.

“David said, ‘Let’s go out into the community and find out what’s really going on and what are some of the barriers to mental health? Where do people go when they have a problem? To their hairdressers, their clergy, and bartenders,” said Jason. “He knew that to understand larger structural issues, that are still prevalent even today, we need to go to the schools, to the prisons, and even the single bars to think about prevention and to reduce the burden of psychological problems that could spring from those environments.”

Glenwick also served on the editorial boards of four peer-reviewed psychology journals. He was a former president of the American Association of Correctional Psychology and editor of the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior. He was elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and later, seven of its 54 specialty areas.

Glenwick was born on September 14, 1949, in the Bronx, the only child of Celia and Henry Glenwick, MD. His father had survived the Nazi death camps where his entire family, including his first wife, perished. The elder Dr. Glenwick started life over in the United States where he remarried and had his son. Glenwick wrote about his father’s experience as the source of his own calling toward social justice in a memoir he published after his father’s death, titled A Physician Under the Nazis (Hamilton Books, 2011).

Professor Tiffany Yip, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Psychology, remembered the first time she met Glenwick when she interviewed at Fordham nearly 20 years ago.

“We talked about the contributions of community psychology to the overall study of psychology, and I knew from that lunch conversation that David would prove to be an engaging, supportive, and curious colleague.”

Supporting Athletes

Given his interest in group dynamics—and a love of sports—it comes as no surprise that he relished his role as the Fordham Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA, said Michael. On completing his three-year term, Glenwick wrote down several reflections of the experience for Fordham Athletics, with an emphasis on the value of good coaching.

“Our coaches know their Xs and Os, but they also take the time to get to know their team members as developing young adults and recognize that, in the phrase ‘student-athlete,’ what comes both before and after the hyphen are important,” he wrote. “A coach is probably the most important adult in a student-athlete’s campus life, and our student-athletes appreciate both the athletic rigor and the caring, familial attitude evinced by our coaches.”

Women’s Basketball Coach Stephanie Gaitley recalled Glenwick as a great supporter who remained positive during a good game and encouraging when a game didn’t go so well.

“When you hit a rough patch, he was the first one to say hang in there,” she said. “He was open and honest about everything and he brought me in touch with his personal fight and we offered prayers up for him.”

Gaitley noted that Glenwick’s expertise in psychology was naturally integrated into his role in the athletics department. He promoted mental health for student-athletes long before the recent headlines, she said.

“He understood that it’s easy to be there for the great wins, but he was there to help you through the lows,” she said. “That’s when you know you have a true supporter and a true fan.”

But above all, Glenwick was a teacher, said his son Michael.

“He taught up to the end, he even taught a virtual class during the pandemic,” he said. “He wasn’t that tech-savvy, but he did everything he could to connect with his students, even remotely.”

Michael said that like many children of Holocaust survivors, his father thought of himself as a healer.

“That’s where the teaching-community psychology piece fits in. He was never doing big-bucks psychology. That was never the point.”

Professor Glenwick is survived by his former wife Carol Noymer and their son, Michael, a community educator. The family invites friends, family, and colleagues to share memories of Professor Glenwick at a virtual shiva on Zoom, this Thursday, July 29th, at 7:30 p.m.

 

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