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In Memoriam: Steven Cole

Andrea Hein, digital content/marketing coordinator

Steven Cole (Courtesy of Mauricio Papini)

Steven Cole, a former psychology professor and recognized scholar in his field, passed away in September, leaving previous students and colleagues to recall his impact on their lives. Countless memories of high praise demonstrate his dedication to students throughout his career.

Cole first arrived at TCU in 1970 as an assistant professor, and remained as a faculty member (later promoted to full professor) until his retirement in 2003. A native of Drumright, Oklahoma, Cole attended Wichita State University in Kansas, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social psychology. He defended his Ph.D. at Michigan State University.

During his tenure at TCU, Cole served as department chairman (1977-82), director of the community psychology master’s program (1975-77) and director of graduate studies for several terms amidst other leadership roles. He also directed 22 Ph.D. dissertations.

The psychologist’s research focused on conflict resolution and substance abuse among other topics, and was often published in top journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Motivation and Emotion. Several distinguished foundations such as National Science Foundation, National Institute of Child Development, and the RGK Foundation provided grants for his research.

Scott Coleman, lecturer of animal behavior at the University of Texas at Arlington, met Cole in the 1970s when he attended high school with Cole’s stepson. He credits his decision to study psychology to Cole’s influence and mentorship.

“He once told me a personal story of how he switched majors from math to psychology,” Coleman said. “I’ll never forget how much he helped me succeed in psychology and beyond. I served as a confederate in several of Steve’s intrinsic motivation studies where I was influenced to pursue graduate studies. It was my first experience as an undergraduate research assistant.”

Thomas Hilton, a former student of Cole, recalls Cole as a good friend and professor. Cole signed his dissertation for his Ph.D. at TCU.

“Undoubtedly, Steve was a central part of all of my TCU and Institute of Behavioral Research experiences. He served not only as department chair for much of our time there, but also as the person who maintained the program perspective, who made us a community,” Hilton said. “Steve was a good friend, a delight to spend time with, and a caring educator who took pride in his students’ achievements.”

“He was one of a kind, with a very unique view of life. Steve was not only a scholar and teacher, but also very compassionate to both graduate and undergraduate students,” said Tim Barth, professor of psychology and Cole’s friend. “He cared about them and their development as people, not just as future scholars. When I was department chair, Steve was always willing to take on a major project when no one else would come forward.”

Cole was an active member of the university community through his involvements in Faculty Senate, University Court, Applied Social Research Advisory Board and various professional organizations and committees. The former professor also served as the sponsor of the TCU archery team for several years.

“Steve was very witty and fun to be around. He was also a fierce dart competitor,” said Donald Dansereau, TCU emeritus professor of psychology and friend of Cole.

Beyond his role as a professor, Cole raised cats for competition. Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, remembers purchasing his family cat, Thor, from Cole, who raised Maine Coon cats.

Memories of Cole reflect his giving nature and active involvement as a faculty member and mentor to students throughout his tenure. His legacy represents the epitome of the teacher-scholar model at TCU.

“He was a tremendous colleague and will be greatly missed,” Barth said.