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University Relations

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Jan. 18 , 2006
Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

Chancellor, colleagues issue statements on death of KU Professor Rick Snyder

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway, psychology professors Ray Higgins and Douglas R. Denney and Shane J. Lopez, associate professor in education, made the following statements in response to the death today of their friend C. Richard “Rick”Snyder, the M. Erik Wright distinguished professor in clinical psychology at KU. Snyder, 61, died early this morning of cancer.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway:
“Rick Snyder was a living advertisement for his psychology of hope, always engaged and positive. I loved to hear him talk about teaching as he regarded it as an honor to be in the classroom and was always looking for the novel approach to his subject. We will all miss him and feel a tremendous loss. We know from his teaching about hope that after great loss ‘there will be a valley, and eventually hope can come back.’ We look forward to that day.

“Rick has immeasurably enriched this university. On behalf of the entire university family I extend our deepest sympathies to the Snyder family and his many friends and colleagues on this very sad day.”

Statement by Ray Higgins, professor of psychology:
“Rick was one of the most courageous and generous people I have known. His seminal work on the psychology of hope grew out of his own 15-year struggle with chronic pain. He was a beloved mentor and life teacher for scores of students and was never so passionate as when he was helping others achieve their goals. A natural leader in life, in his dying he was still showing us the way.”

Statement by Douglas R. Denney, professor of psychology:
“Rick Snyder and I joined the KU faculty together in 1972, and he was my colleague and friend for over 30 years. Simply put, his collective contributions as a scholar, mentor, classroom instructor and program administrator were unsurpassed by anyone I shall ever know. The passing of such a talented individual leaves a sizeable void in the department and the university. Rick will be remembered not only for these contributions but also for his thoughtfulness toward students and colleagues, the optimism and energy he consistently brought to his craft, his self-deprecating humor and generous spirit.

Statement by Shane J. Lopez, associate professor of psychology and research in education:
“Rick was in the business of changing lives, plain and simple. As my mentor he taught me how to honor suffering and seek out hope in daily life. As a leading positive psychology scholar, he demystified hope and forgiveness for the world. For these reasons and many more personal ones, I was lucky to have been Rick’s friend. I miss him terribly.”

C. Richard “Rick” Snyder
Professor Snyder was internationally known for his work at the interface of clinical, social, personality and health psychology. His theories have pertained to how people react to personal feedback, the human need for uniqueness, the ubiquitous drive to excuse transgressions and, most recently, the hope motive.

He received 27 teaching awards at the university, state and national level, including:
• H.O.P.E. (Honor for an Outstanding Progressive Educator) Award (winner nominated and selected by KU students) in 1991 and 2004
• Outstanding Psychology Teacher in Kansas from the Kansas Psychological Association, 2002
• Kansas Professor of the Year by the the Council for Advancement and Support of Educators, 2001
• Byron T. Shutz Award for Distinguished Teaching at KU, 2001
• Outstanding Graduate Education from the American Psychological Association, 2000
• Kemper Award for excellence in teaching at KU, 1997
• Byrd Outstanding Graduate Educator Award at KU, 1992

His research focused on the ideas of hope and forgiveness. As a pioneer in the positive-psychology movement, which looks at human strengths instead of weaknesses, Snyder wrote or edited 23 books, including six books he wrote on the theory of hope. His books and 262 articles describe hope’s impact on various aspects of life, including health, children, spirituality and work.

He received 31 research awards, including the 2002 Balfour Jeffrey Award for Research Achievement in Humanities and Social Science and the 2001 Guilford Press Award for Pioneering Scholarly Contributions in Clinical/Social/Personality Psychology. In 2005, he received an honorary doctorate from Indiana Wesleyan University. His work on the human need for uniqueness spawned a Sunday “Doonesbury” cartoon sequence.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Vanderbilt University. He began his academic career at KU in 1972 as an assistant professor of psychology. From 1974 to 2001, he was director of the clinical psychology program at KU.


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