Barbara C. Etzel passed away on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 in Lawrence, Kansas. She was born on September 19, 1926, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only daughter of Ruth C. Etzel and Walter T. Etzel.
Barbara amassed an enormous circle of personal friends, students and colleagues during her 93 years. Her personal friends remember her as a generous and civil human being who always conducted herself with class and respect for others. Her students recall a professor who was selflessly devoted to the pursuit of excellence in every matter she undertook. They knew her as a devoted adviser and wonderful role model. Barbara’s colleagues speak of her enviable work ethic as a university administrator. She enriched countless lives and all who knew her would agree on one universal aspect of their acquaintance with her. They are all better for having known her.
Barbara displayed excitement and curiosity about a wide range of current affairs, politics, science and economics. She was particularly interested in the welfare and humane treatment of all manner of domestic and wild critters. She was a dog lover and made regular financial contributions to animal welfare organizations and local animal shelters. She took in shelter animals and provided safe spaces for countless birds, raccoons and any lucky animal who happened to visit her large farm in Jefferson County where she lived for almost forty years.
Perhaps her most impressive quality was Barbara’s devotion to the pursuit of equal rights and opportunities for women and her absolute belief in universal rights for all human beings.
Barbara was raised in Miami, Florida and graduated from Stephens College where she received an Associate Arts Degree in 1946. She displayed a keen interest in horseback riding and obtained her private airplane pilot license. Next, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in 1948 at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. After that she returned to Miami where she earned her Master of Science degree in child psychology at the University of Miami in 1950. In 1953, Barbara was awarded her Ph.D. in developmental and experimental child psychology from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Barbara’s first professional position was in Columbus, Ohio, where she served as staff psychologist for the Ohio State Bureau of Juvenile Research from 1953 through 1954. For the following two years she taught and worked in the child psychology clinical laboratory at Florida State University in Tallahassee as an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department. Next, Barbara accepted a position as Chief Psychologist from 1956 until 1961 in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle. She didn’t find a Freudian theoretical approach to human behavior very interesting and so she moved to Western Washington State University in Bellingham as an Associate Professor in Psychology. It was during this time that she served as a Special Fellow for the Secretary on Early Development and Learning, part of the National Institutes of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Having studied a new approach in psychology called Experimental Analysis of Human Behavior or Applied Behavior Analysis, Barbara was invited to accept a position in a newly formed department at the University of Kansas, where this theoretical viewpoint was emphasized. So, in 1964 Barbara moved to Lawrence and K.U. where she was to spend the rest of her professional career and life. She was appointed to the rank of Professor at K.U. in 1969.
During her years at K.U., Barbara served in a number of different capacities. She was Director of the Edna A. Hill Child Development Laboratory, Associate Dean of the Office of Research Administration and Graduate School at K.U.
Barbara’s area of expertise and publication involved researching the pre-school curriculum for teaching cognitive and motor skills and errorless stimulus control procedures for teaching developmentally delayed children. She consulted and lectured widely. For many years she served on the professional boards of various schools for the autistic child. Until the time of her death she still consulted with one school in New Jersey and one in Europe.
Many honors and awards came to Barbara during her long and distinguished career. She excelled in the classroom and was nominated for the HOPE Award. Barbara was honored with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Award for her work in developing methods to teach children with learning disabilities. In conjunction with this award she was hosted by the Japanese government to conduct a month-long tour of that country lecturing and meeting scholars and parents and teachers of children with learning disabilities. An award in her name is given by her department at every spring graduation to a student majoring in Early Childhood Development. Barbara is a member of the K.U. Women’s Hall of Fame. She received the Don Hake Award. She was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. She was President of Division 25 of the American Psychological Association and President of the Association for Behavior Analysis.
Barbara first lived in Lawrence when she came to the University. After several years she moved to Jefferson County where she built a beautiful home on 160 acres of woods and valleys and meadows and a seven-acre lake complete with boat dock and lake cabin. She enjoyed her time there for almost forty years in the company of her dogs and abundant wildlife. She named this retreat Woodsong Ranch and it served as a venue for memorable dinners and enjoyable entertaining where she could put on display her magnificent abilities as a hostess and her unsurpassed cuisine. In her early nineties she moved back to Lawrence where she furnished and decorated her new home in a style that was always unmistakably “Barbara’s House.”
Her parents and one brother preceded her in death and she is survived by her nephew Theo Etzel and his wife Kim of Naples, Florida and their two children Kristen (John) of Naples, Florida and Chad (Kim) of San Francisco, California.
In lieu of flowers Barbara requested that memorial contributions be made in her name to the Lawrence Humane Society or the Jefferson County Humane Society and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
Following cremation burial will be at the Pioneer Cemetery at the University of Kansas.