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Distinguished Faculty

Sanford J. Dean

Former Chair and Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology
1969-1987

Sanford DeanDr. Sanford J. “Sandy” Dean is a key figure among the leaders who helped transform NIU from a small teaching college into the nationally recognized, research university it has become today.

Dr. Dean was appointed Chair of the Department of Psychology in the fall of 1969. He arrived at a time when the department was evolving and had only two faculty members with any doctoral program experience. Office and research space was spread across campus in thirteen different locations. NIU was just beginning the process of transforming itself from a small institution focused on teacher training to a doctoral-level, research oriented university. In Dr. Dean, the Department of Psychology found the leader it needed to catapult the program to national prominence.

With much work ahead, Dr. Dean set out to make substantive and effective changes, laying the groundwork for a strong doctoral program and academic unit. He placed a high premium on hiring exceptional, research-oriented faculty, and he established and enforced high standards for tenure and promotion. He created a culture that encouraged both scholarship and teaching of all students, from undergraduate through doctoral level. In short, Dr. Dean set high standards, established clear and objective measures for those standards, and made quality the driving force in all endeavors. These guiding principles are hallmarks of the department yet today.

Dr. Dean’s influence extended well beyond the Department of Psychology. Early on, he initiated the practice of using outside readers to ensure the quality of dissertations. With able assistance from Dorothy and Wallace McAllister, he developed and promoted the use of fair and objective measures for annual evaluations. He produced annual reports of the faculty’s scholarly productivity and other accomplishments, not only to demonstrate the Department’s reach and impact, but also to inspire and encourage all of its members to contribute to advancing the University’s mission.

The Department moved forward quickly under Dr. Dean’s guidance. In his eighteen years as chair, professorial staff in the department grew by half, and research productivity, teaching quality and external support for research soared. In 1971, construction on a new building for the growing department began, with Dr. Dean personally supervising its construction and furnishing.

Following his retirement in 1987, Dr. Dean continued to conduct research and publish in major refereed journals. During the course of his career, he co-authored a book, The Investigation of Psychotherapy: Commentaries and Readings, and authored or co-authored over twenty articles in such prestigious publications as the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning and Motivation, Psychophysiology, and Psychonomic Science, along with an invited chapter in a volume published by Erlbaum Associates in 1991.

When he arrived at NIU in 1969, Dr. Dean’s goals were to develop a viable doctoral program in Psychology and to create a culture that would emphasize and encourage scholarship, research and teaching. Dr. Dean not only accomplished that, but he also established best practices that continue to resonate throughout the Department, the College, and the University yet today.