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Dr. Harrison Gough: A True Gentleman and A Scholar by Christina Maslach

Editor’s note: On May 4th, 2014, we sadly lost Dr. Harrison G. Gough, our co-founding father at CPP, Inc. In the next few weeks, we will share an outpouring of stories about Dr. Gough’s inspiring life. We have also dedicated a special page for him at www.cpp.com/HonoringHarrisonGough.

Written by Christina Maslach
Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley and CPP Board of Directors Member

Harrison Gough was the epitome of the phrase, “a true gentleman and a scholar.”  Indeed, I can’t think of anyone who came close to his debonair and courtly style, and his incredible intelligence, knowledge, and wit.  He knew so much, and could explain it so clearly, that I always felt I was getting an amazing education whenever I asked him a question.

In a way, Harrison anticipated the internet.  Raise some topic with him, and before you knew it, you had received a typed message from him, which explored the topic in depth and laid out his personal thoughts about it, whether it was about personality measures or jazz records.  It was email in the days of snail mail!  Actually, I don’t think Harrison ever used email, but he kept using his typewriter (with its distinctive typeface) forever.  However, I think I can say definitively that Harrison would never “tweet” — as his ideas and comments would never be so brief.

Harrison was a true giant in the field of personality assessment, and an important leader who shaped its future trajectory in many ways.  But for me, he was a wonderful colleague and friend who shaped my own career path.  He was the Psychology Department chair who hired me, as a brand-new Ph.D., to become an assistant professor at UC-Berkeley [where I have worked ever since].  And he became my guide and mentor in carrying out the appropriate psychometric research to develop what has become the leading measure of job burnout, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI).  This initial work on burnout was not well received at first by academic journals, despite all the research data (the manuscripts would be returned immediately, with the editor commenting that “we don’t review pop psychology”), and Harrison would always be there to commiserate and then advise me on next steps.  One of those next steps was to have the MBI published by CPP, and later on I was invited to join the CPP Board of Directors.  I loved working with Harrison at Board meetings, and whenever the Board offsite was near Pebble Beach, Harrison and Kathryn would host an elegant cocktail party for us.

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to know and work with such an inspirational person as Harrison, and I will treasure all these wonderful memories of him.

 

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