Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Devendra Singh Remembered

Devendra Singh

Professor Devendra Singh, a noted evolutionary psychologist, passed away on May 18, 2010. Dr. Singh was born in India in 1938 and completed his M.A. in Psychology at Agra University, Agra India in 1961. He obtained his Ph.D. (in Experimental-Physiological Psychology) from Ohio State University in 1966. Dr. Singh held teaching positions at Wright State University and North Dakota State University before coming to The University of Texas Department of Psychology in 1969.

Dr. Singh was acknowledged by peers and students alike as a great teacher and researcher. Among his many accomplishments, he was the winner of the 1966 J.P. Guilford Creative Research Award. In 1976 he was awarded the first Golden Apple Teaching Excellence Award. In 1992, he was nominated as one of the two best teachers among the 30 tenured faculty members of the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas. In 1994 and 1995, he was nominated for Jean Holloway Award for Teaching Excellence. In 1995, Dr. Singh was selected as one of eight university wide faculty and staff members for the Excellence Award for "Unselfish Devotion to the University" by The Eyes of Texas. In 1996 he received The University of Texas Medical School at Houston award for "Recruitment of able students to the field of Medicine."

Below are remembrances by some of Dr. Singh's colleagues and associates.

Peter MacNeilage
Professor Emeritus, UT Department of Psychology
May 21, 2010

I have known Dev since he and I arrived in this department at the same time, long, long ago. Most recently I occupied the office next to him. Over the years he has been a consistently genial friend, despite his long-standing ill health. He lightened up many of my days with his excellent sense of humor. I admired his enthusiasm for teaching and his dedication to it. I had occasion to sit in on a couple of his classes and it is clear to me that there are a lot of lucky people out there who had him for a professor. He was one of UT's shining lights, and I will miss him a good deal.

Marc S Lewis
Associate Professor, UT Department of Psychology
May 22, 2010

I first saw Dev teach about 30 years ago when I was teaching the "teaching course." This is the course that graduate students take before they can teach their own class. As a class exercise, we were sitting in on lectures given by great teachers of The University, and we saw style and skill in every classroom. But it was when we visited Dev's class that I got my first real lesson in teaching. Dev was teaching a large introductory psychology class, and as I sat among a crowd of students at the back of the lecture hall, I began to notice that the pattern of the lecture was atypical. Instead of following the usual textbook logic for presenting the subject (I think it was learning), Dev was pulling ideas from all parts of psychology and showing how they applied. In the course of an hour, Dev blended a half-dozen different concepts from different areas of psychology into a single idea and he illustrated each concept with a surprising examples and funny observations. The result was a remarkable lecture full of insight and humor.

The students understood that Dev was a great teacher (here is one of many examples from the student website "This is a professor who lives for teaching. He is so knowledgeable and cares so much about his students... his enthusiasm for life and the subject he teaches is infectious, making you want to come to class to listen.") — and his class was always in high demand. But those students saw only half of the story. They saw his passion, but because they were new to psychology, I don't think they really understood how much mastery it took to create his lectures. To them, the lectures were an interesting presentation of how psychology must be; they didn't know that they were sitting in the only classroom in the world where those insights could be had. But as someone who had already taught my own introductory psychology course, I knew what I was seeing and it was formative. For that reason I will always remember Dev as one of this University's greatest teachers.

Mike Domjan
Professor, UT Department of Psychology
May 22, 2010

Two things come to mind as I reflect on Dev Singh—his enthusiasm for life, and his dedication to teaching. His failing health during the last few years notwithstanding, Dev was very energetic, enthusiastic, and almost rambunctious most of his life. This was evident in his presentations, whether he was describing the “tomato surprise” in a talk about his research on obesity, or Barbie dolls in a talk on the waist-to-hip ratio. His enthusiasm was also evident in the great parties he had at his house on Robert E. Lee Road. The parties would get more lively as the hour approached midnight, when I would have to succumb to my more pedantic biological clock and go home.

Dev loved life and did not shy away from adventures. But, regardless of where those adventures took him, he never strayed from his dedication to teaching. As many Texans, Dev got heavily involved in real estate speculation before that market crashed in the 1980s. I recall one occasion when he told me that regardless of how much money was involved in a deal, he would never attend any business meetings if they conflicted with his classes. Teaching always came first for him. Many years later as his health deteriorated, Dev was forced to sit out a semester for medical reasons. I got the distinct impression that he was more upset by the lack of contact with students than by the medical problems he had to cope with.

Dev's passion for life and for teaching sustained him to the end and inspired several generation of students.

Norm Li
Assistant Professor, UT Department of Psychology (until 2010)
May 24, 2010

Dev Singh's passing is truly a great loss. He was passionate about everything he did. As a teacher, he loved engaging students with his knowledge, stories, and incisive humor. Dev would have wanted to live and teach forever. Last year, with an IV drip in his office and 12-daily hours of dialysis, he told me that it took him 2 hours to get dressed in the morning and 3 hours to get to the classroom. Just last week, my wife, baby, and I went to see Dev and his wife at his home. Even then, 5 days before his passing, with barely enough energy to keep awake, he considered the possibility of coming back to the classroom in July. Not one person in this world has ever had this kind of passion for teaching.

The first time I saw him was at the 1998 Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference, the summer before I started graduate school. I gave my first conference talk there, right after the famous Dr. Devendra Singh. He was both knowledgeable and funny, and thanks to him, I had a full audience for my own little talk. The first thing I said to the audience was, "This is a tough act to follow". Indeed, as a researcher, his work on waist-to-hip ratio was revolutionary. Rightfully so, his work is recognized in the field (and beyond) as an important contribution to the understanding of mate preferences, fertility, and health.

While his research (with yet another article published this very month) will live on, we will, unfortunately, only have memories of his presence and kindness. Starting at that conference 12 years ago, Dev sat down, at the end of a late Saturday night, with me and another student, and offered his advice on how to be a good writer. It struck me as a little unusual, at least in this day and age, for a bigshot professor to bother sitting down with neophyte students, let alone offering sage, almost fatherly, advice. When I first visited UT-Austin on a job interview in 2001, a graduate student led me to Dev's office and was about to introduce us, when Dev interjected, "I know Li very well — we go way back." Since then, he has offered much kindness and friendship and has taken me and my family into his home on several occassions. Last week, we had our last drink together. I will miss and always remember Dev, our colleague and dear friend.

Drew Bailey
May 24, 2010

Dr. Singh was a wonderful professor. When I was an undergraduate in his class, he would sit cross-legged on a table with no microphone or Power Point slides and deliver a captivating lecture to attentive students. He was extremely funny, and I often retell his stories—one of of my favorites was his claim that he would feign muteness to avoid smalltalk on airplanes and that he once blew his cover by informing the flight attendant he would prefer the chicken for dinner.

As great of a teacher as he was, Dr. Singh was an even more wonderful person. He would travel to campus even on days he was not teaching to meet with me about school and research (he was extremely patient with me during these meetings), and took me to my first conference, the Human Behavior and Evolution Society in 2007 despite his poor health.

Dr. Singh's generosity was almost matched by his cooking. He cooked some of the best food I have ever eaten and, to my delight, would always remind me that in Indian culture politeness is a function of how many extra helpings one takes (this was not a problem for me!).

Even until the last time I got to visit with him, about 2 months ago, Dr. Singh was still joking and discussing teaching and research. His positive attitude throughout all the time I knew him was always inspiring. I think often of the advice he gave me, both personally and professionally, and I feel very lucky to have been able to known him.

Jacqueline Woolley
Professor, UT Department of Psychology
Jun 1, 2010

One of my fondest memories of Dev is from the annual Texas Student Psychological Association picnics in Eastwoods Park. These events didn't always draw huge numbers of faculty members, but Dev was a regular. I can visualize him sitting at a picnic table surrounded by admiring students. His care and concern for the students was clear, there, on a weekend, in the sun, and in the classroom. He will be sorely missed.

Cherye West
Jun 2, 2010

Dr. Singh was a wonderful person, kind and generous with his time, and truly dedicated to the progress of his students. He was an impassioned teacher, and will be missed by all who knew him.

Delbert D Thiessen
Professor Emeritus, UT Department of Psychology
Jun 17, 2010

I was a friend and colleague of Dev's for 41 years. He arrived at UT with his usual flair, during a time that was intoxicating and important. In 1969, research money was flowng, Nixon became President, the Vietnam war was running its course, and the US landed men on the moon. Others joined the Department during that year, including, I belive, Joe Horn, David Cohen, and Arnie Buss. I got to know Dev during those early years and later learned of his love for Barbra, his daughters Dorian, Adrian, and Ann. We had wonderful dinners at Dev's home, and some of the best French cooking ever. I asked him where he learned French cooking and he told me that he leaned from Julia Child on TV. Like everything else, he became an expert in all of his interests. With the means there was always tea, steeped exactly 6.5 minutes, wine that complemented the food and his guests, and even the soup had to be at a perfect temperature. His humor supported his life during the entire time. One day he came into my office waving a ltter from the women's division of the APA, inviting him to become a member, obviously misreading the name of Devendra. I asked him what he was going to do, and he said, join of course. I asked him why, and he said, we need each other. More than once he would stop me and tell me of a Hindu piece of philosophy, sounding a lot like a Texas saying. He would stand back and smile. Dev loved life, his family and many friends, his students, and his research. I never knew him to inflate a grade or grade on a curve. He told me that there were some absolutes in life that students should learn. Three cheers. Toward the last months I would ask him how he was and he would stoically give me a detached medical report—no complaints, just descriptive facts. Then he would ask how I was, and my problems always diminished before his show, of course. I regret two thngs with Dev. He and I wanted to publish a research paper together, but for some strange reason it never happened. The other regret is harder for me. We discussed barnstorming universities in Europe, giving talks and imposing on friends, sort of, have talks will party. It would have been great. My admiration for him never failed. He was a beautiful friend, a bright and interesting conversationist, and a kind man. He gave me much, and I shall miss him.

Vera Lopez
Jun 23, 2010

I was a student in Dr. Singh's Psychology 301 class in 1989 and again in 1991 for Motivational Psychology. I worked as his undergraduate research assistant on his waist-to-hip research project. Dr. Singh wrote one of my rec letters for graduate school. He made a huge impression on me as an undergraduate. I'm sorry we lost touch over the years. He was amazing. RIP Dr. Singh, I am forever grateful to you for making me love psychology.

Michelle Wegmann
Jun 23, 2010

Dr. Singh was my professor for two courses (Motivation and Psychology of Sex). As a previous student of his, I have to say he was a very influential man. He would always stress during the lecture to "think outside of the box." This message is very vital to give to all students, because he was right. As a student we accept things to be true without questioning it or thinking critically.

Another thing that I can remember is Dr. Singh mentioning how much teaching meant to him and it was very obvious he meant that considering his health. His passion for teaching is very evident in his lectures. He pushed all his students to want to succeed and would reward figs to the students who scored the highest on his exam. If a student had never consumed a fig before do not worry, because he would even explain how to open and eat it. I respected him very much for being so passionate in teaching at UT. It was truly an honor to have him as a professor while at UT. He was very intelligent and his sense of humor made the lectures even more memorable. I will never forget his teachings and he will be missed greatly.

Lynn Zipoy, PhD
Jun 27, 2010

I had Dr. Singh as a psychology professor while I was an undergraduate in the late '80s. Just wanted to say that I am very sorry to hear about his recent passing. I am thankful for his contributions to our field.

Gary O'Donnell, M.D.
Jul 19, 2010

As a freshman at UT in 1970 I took a course in intro to psychology from Dr. Singh. While it was the only course I took from him and my interests ran in a different direction I have not forgotten the excellent and often humorous education I received in that class. I am glad to know that many more students over the years had the chance to hear him.

Tony Rhodes
Aug 6, 2010

I had the privelege of being in Dr. Singh's Motivation class in 1993. Most of what I remember learning during my time as an undergraduate comes from that class. I loved his humor. I remember one day when we were discussing which part of the brain influences people to become right handed. When I asked him about left handed people (I am left handed), he said we were just screwed up...! I was happy to come away with three figs that sememster. Godspeed Dr. Singh!

Karen Meter
Aug 28, 2010

Dev was my Into to Psychology teacher at NDSU in 1968–69. Although it was a very large lecture class, he made an impression on me as being one of the most intelligent and funny people I have ever known. He never minced words. He told us to take the text book which was required (written by the department chair), go over to the window and throw it in the snowbank. His office door was always open (even on Saturdays) and he never disappointed us.

Maria Castro Calzada, PA-C
Dec 22, 2010

I am so very sad to hear of this loss to UT and to all of his students. Dr. Singh was far and beyond my favorite and most influential professor. As a PSY major (1993–1998), I had the opportunity to take every undergrad class he offered. I am proud to say I earned more than one fig. Dr. Singh also was kind enough to serve as my Faculty Fellow for 4 years while I was an RA in Jester Hall. He attended meals with us, he mentored me, he counseled students, and he honored my Residents with humorous, entertaining, and enlightening talks... the likes of which could be seen on Dateline or 60 Minutes, and Jester Hall. Professor Singh is who I think of when people say maybe The University of Texas is "too big" or "too impersonal." Dr. Singh made UT seem small and personal and Ivy League as any small private school. Peace be with his family.

Mark Affeltranger
Dec 23, 2010

I can remember when Dr. Singh came to the University of Pittsburgh in the spring of 1999. He gave a talk about waste-to-hip ratios and astounded the audience with his knowlege and deductions. He then went out to dinner with a group of us graduate students. Not only was he a source of great knowledge, but he also had a quick wit. He kept us all in stitches.

P. Venkatramana, India
Jan 3, 2011

I knew Dr. Singh since 1999 when he came to India to carry out field work in connection with his project. When we were in the field he moved with the subjects so nicely. It is a great loss to the Evolutionary psychologists.

JS, Lietenant/USMC
Apr 19, 2011
I had Dr. Singh for a summer semester class. His ability to take the entire required curriculum and teach it during a summer semester was amazing. I appreciated his sense of humor toward taking the class in the summer. I am proud/glad to say that Dr. Singh taught/mentored me.

Devendra Singh (Toronto, Canada)
Apr 19, 2011

When I was an engineering student at the University of Alberta about 10 years ago, a friend jokingly asked me about "my" research into male-female attraction. Naturally, I had no idea what my friend was talking about and she then went on to explain that I shared the name of a professor in Texas who did research in that area. Of course I was curious and ended up reading Dr. Singh's work. I was fascinated and wrote to Dr. Singh just to say hello. I suppose I thought that since we had the same name, he would at least take the time to reply. In fact, he sent me a parcel with hard copies of his publications and I was very grateful for that gesture. I really only came to know about Dr. Singh because of the rather silly coincidence of having the same name and having a friend who thought to mention it that day. I came back to this site today to see if there were any new or interesting publications but instead I read the obituary and was very sad to learn that he had passed away a year ago. To this day, I encourage friends who are interested in some fascinating topics on evolutionary psychology and the mysteries of attraction to take a look at "my" research on the topic. Rest assured that I am certainly not fooling anyone but I do hope that I am spreading the influence of his research in some small way.

Bonnie Brzozowski
Apr 28, 2011

I was just thinking of Dr. Singh today and stumbled across this. I took one of his classes as an undergraduate (Substance Abuse) and the research presented in that class and Dr. Singh's attitude, humor, and good nature made a huge impact on me. One of the things he told me when I was talking to him one day is to find something I love in life and try to figure out how to get paid to do it. Simple advice, really, but it influenced me greatly. I will always remember him and think of him fondly.

Jessica Tidwell
May 14, 2011

I just finished reading an evolutionary psychology book (that I randomly picked up at BookPeople) called, "Why Beautiful People Have more Daughters," and in one of the chapters it mentioned Dr. Dev Singh and his famous waist-to-hip ratio studies! To be honest, I often think of Dr. Singh and/or the intriguing material from the two undergraduate courses I enrolled in of his (Substance Abuse and Psy of Motivation). In fact, I've been interested in the topic of evolutionary psychology since 2004 when I first sat down in one of his classes! I'm also proud to say that I earned several figs that semester and was rewarded by having lunch with him at the end of the semester. He encouraged me to look into Social Work for graduate school after listening to my interests, and that's exactly what I ended up doing! He was even kind enough to write one of my recommendations for me. He will forever have an impact on the way I think and look at the world of psychology- to this day he is my most memorable and inspiring professors of all time.

John Lakey
Jul 6, 2011

I worked with Dev as a graduate student when he first came to Texas, and he instilled that love of knowledge that's stayed with me these forty years, both the pleasure of discovery and the joy of sharing yourself and your knowledge through teaching. He made a difference for many of us.

Bonny C. Dahm
Sep 2, 2011

I took an undergrad class with Dr. Singh around '02/'03 and also had the pleasure of knowing him through the Texas Student Psychological Association. He was a dedicated, enthusiastic, and humorous teacher. There were at least a hundred people enrolled in that class, but he kept us mesmerized each time. One day, he told our class a story: people fall into three categories. First, there are those who have jobs, where they simply work to get a paycheck. The majority of people fall into this category. Second, there are those who have careers. These would be people who may not necessarily love their jobs, but work hard at their tasks to find success. Third, and most importantly, there are a very lucky few who have a passion. These are the ones who are able to devote their time, energy, and dedication into something that they truly believe in and love. He considered himself very privileged to fall into this last category, and he hoped that we could find ourselves in that position one day, too. I continue to be inspired by this. Dr. Singh was truly a memorable professor.

Nils K. Hammer
Jan 13, 2012

I'm another Pittsburgher. I've been quoting him on the hip-waist ratio thing ever since I attended the lecture. I was very pleased to see a newspaper advice columnist also did, although she quoted the more easy going 0.7 ratio instead of 0.65. The reason I found this site tonight was that I was teaching someone to measure her ratio, as she had been feeling a bit down about her appearance.

I am convinced that this work; politically incorrect, sometimes laughed at, may actually save lives when people see that they do not meet the unrealistic, unfeeling requirements of some society, but properly informed, know that they can be beautiful and validated in the fuller human experience.

Mar 31, 2012

I'm from Punjab university Lahore Pakistan, student of applied Psychology. I had presented a research article of Dev sir in my class and truly found many appreciation. Today i decided to give Dev sir sm words of thanks and i came to know that he is no more, its sad. but I'm thankful to him.

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