Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

The Ira and Louise Iscoe Endowed Fund in Psychology

Photo of Ira Iscoe

Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus Dr. Ira Iscoe joined the Department of Psychology faculty at The University of Texas in 1951. He was instrumental in developing the Clinical Training Psychology Program and for its accreditation by the American Psychological Association. He was a fixture on the UT campus until 2014 when he and his wife Louise moved from Austin to the D.C. area to be near two of their grown children. Dr. Iscoe died recently in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2015, at the age of 94.

Iscoe served as the director of The University of Texas Counseling and Psychological Center (now called The Counseling and Mental Health Center) from 1968–78, as well as organized and headed the department’s Community Psychology Area starting in 1972. For more than 15 years the Community Area focused on training students in community mental health practice and research, with training centered on Crisis Theory. He was also director of the UT Institute of Human Development and Family Studies from 1978–1994.

Iscoe also directed the Plan II Interdisciplinary Honors program from 1981–86. When he retired from that position, the state Legislature declared the day of his retirement “Ira Iscoe Day”. He was roasted by students and faculty and presented with a scrapbook and the Texas flag that flew over the Capitol in his honor.

Aside from his activities at UT, Dr. Iscoe served as president of the Texas Psychological Association, the Southwest Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association’s Division of Community Psychology. He also worked to improve services at the Texas State Mental Hospital and State School.

Both Ira and Louise were active in the early civil rights movement on campus, and were very supportive of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. He was the primary advocate for diversity in the Psychology Department and at UT. He mentored the first African American student to graduate with a doctorate in Psychology (who went on to direct the Diversity Office of the American Psychological Association) and he chaired the dissertations of several Latina and Latino graduate students who have made significant contributions to mental health service and policy in the state.

According to Psychology Professor Manuel Ramirez, who served under Iscoe in the Community Area, “He was able to ‘integrate’ the department and the College of Liberal Arts through his directorship of the Community Area and the Institute for Human Development and Family Studies. The Institute also sponsored several research projects on Mexican Americans in South Texas and Mexicans in Mexico City and Monterrey. It made it possible for psychologists at UT and the National University of Mexico to collaborate on several research projects that promoted InterAmerican Psychology. Ira and (Professor Emeritus) Wayne Holtzman made invaluable contributions to the UT/National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) work in mental health research.”

He added, “When I think of Ira's philosophy of life and his many accomplishments I am reminded of the quote by Robert Kennedy in the speech he gave after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’ Ira's life exemplified this quote perfectly. He always saw what could be and made it happen.”

Among the numerous awards Professor Iscoe received were the Harvard University Fellowship in Community Mental Health; the Distinguished Visiting Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (1976-79); and the Pro Bene Meritis Award (1993) from The College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas. He was also active as a pro bonoconsultant to a number of community and state agencies and served as a mentor to younger faculty at the University.

Current Psychology Department Chair Jacqueline Woolley describes him as a “unique, worldly, giving, and funny person... and a vibrant part of our departmental community. Ira always had stories to tell, pieces of advice, and words of encouragement.”

Psychology Professor Marc Lewis, who also worked closely with Iscoe, said, “Ira helped recruit me to The University of Texas in 1977. He was my mentor and later, my close friend. He didn’t just touch lives, he changed them on a grand scale, and it would be difficult to think of somebody who had more impact on my life. He had an extraordinary impact on Mental Health in Texas and was known far outside of the academic world as one of the early pioneers in changing policies and actions on a statewide basis. His name alone could open surprisingly lofty closed doors. He was one of the founding fathers of Community Psychology, a field born in the Kennedy administration that applies psychological knowledge to large social problems. He was an amazing and unique force on the department, on the University, and on the entire state of Texas.”

Psychology Professor Josh Holahan added: "The Department of Psychology, The University of Texas, and the Austin community lost a forceful leader, a gifted thinker, and a generous friend with Ira's passing. His leadership broke new ground in student mental health care, the prevention of mental illness, and both undergraduate and graduate studies. His insights foreshadowed developments in science and society decades before others recognized their significance. His warmth and humor pervaded every occasion blessed by his presence."

In an interview with The Austin-American Statesman, Iscoe’s longtime friend Luci Baines Johnson said, “He taught a lot of us to find our best selves… Thousands of folks’ lives are richer because of him. He was wisdom on two feet. I was at his 90th birthday party and it was breathing-room only. There were hoards of people there. You look back and think, ‘I’m never going to meet anyone like him again.’”

To make an online pledge that can be paid out over a period of five years, or to donate a single payment online, click HERE.
For mail-in options, please see the Iscoe Donate page.

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