University mourns loss of Psychology Professor Emerita Bernice Lott

Lott was first dean of University College, social justice leader, writer

The University mourns the loss of Professor Emerita of Psychology Bernice Lott, who was the first dean of URI’s University College. She died Aug. 14 at her home in Kingston at 92.

Dr. Lott taught psychology and women’s studies at URI, having previously taught at the University of Colorado and Kentucky State College. Her research focused on gender, ethnicity and race, and she helped further a social justice agenda in psychology. She was a visiting scholar/professor at Brown University’s Center for Research and Teaching on Women, Stanford University’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Department of Psychology in Waikato University, New Zealand, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She also served as president of the American Psychological Association’s Division 35 (The Psychology of Women).

She was a leader in social justice issues, focusing on interpersonal discrimination; the intersections among gender, ethnicity, and social class; multicultural issues; the social psychology of poverty; and the social psychology of dissent. She was a member of an Interdivisional Minority Pipeline Project, working on strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of graduate students of color, and represented APA on the coalition of Divisions for Social Justice.

She was a prolific writer throughout her career, author of theoretical and empirical articles, chapters and books in the areas of social learning, gender, poverty and other social issues. Her 2007 book on economic injustice (co-authored with Heather Bullock) was honored by the National Library Association and the Association for Women in Psychology.

Dr. Lott’s work throughout her long career has been honored on the local and national level. She was awarded URI’s Excellence Award for scholarly achievement and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She has been honored for scholarly mentoring, social policy and service contributions by APA’s Committee on Women, the Association for Women in Psychology, and the National Multicultural Conference and Summit.

Dr. Lott’s colleague and friend, Lisa Harlow, professor emerita of psychology, said she remembers  “Bernice being such a strong and steady focal point of our department meetings, without whom I don’t think that the women would have been heard or respected as much as they were. I, along with the other women faculty (and others!), valued her calm and clear wisdom and the no-nonsense way in which she shared her insights and perspectives. Being in her presence was always a master class on demonstrating and commanding respect and fairness, no matter what the issue or discussion. A good part of who I am today as a professional (although newly retired) is due to having Bernice as an unwavering role model and influence.”

Another friend and colleague, Professor Emeritus of Psychology John Stevenson, had this to say: “Bernice has left giant footprints as she propelled her behaviorist research as a powerful lever for social justice. Her indomitable moxie for telling truth to power, combined with her exacting standards for herself and all with whom she worked, have by now had impacts far beyond her own remarkable work as those who followed those giant footsteps as best they could have continued to multiply the benefits of her model. And her gusto for life, for fun as well as work, shines on for us all, too.”

Lott is survived by her husband, Albert; children Sara Mariah Rose, Judith Lott, and Joshua (Susan) Lott; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. A graveside service will be private in Old Fernwood Cemetery, Kingston. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island or HopeHealth Hospice.

Read the full obituary.