Professor Wilbert (Bill) J. McKeachie passed away peacefully on June 12, 2019 in the company of loved ones. He was 97 years old. For 75 years he had lived a rich and joyful life with his wife, Virginia (Ginny) Mack, who had been his college sweetheart. They raised two daughters and enjoyed a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter. He was a devoted family man, a skilled pianist, passionate about music, a lover of card games, and a legendary softball player and fastball pitcher. Religion always played an essential part in his life. He and Ginny were active members of the First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor for over 70 years.
Born in Clarkston, Michigan, in 1921, Bill McKeachie graduated from Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) in 1942, majoring in mathematics and taking three psychology courses. In 1945, following his World War II service as a radar and communications officer on a destroyer in the Pacific, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Michigan (UM) to study psychology.
While working as a teaching assistant for introductory psychology, he became curious about the classroom experience. Thus began his life-long research career on the nature of teaching and learning. After earning his Ph.D. in 1949, Dr. McKeachie joined the professorial ranks of UM’s Department of Psychology, where he remained until his retirement in 1992.
Dr. McKeachie was among the first to pursue research on the college classroom experience. He studied test anxiety, individual differences among students, gender differences, and students’ feeling about teaching and their teachers. In the course of his career, he published over 30 books or monographs, 122 book chapters, and more than 200 articles. His most influential and popular book McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, now in its 14th edition, has been translated into many languages.
Dr. McKeachie was deeply devoted to the Department of Psychology. He served as chair for 10 years and built the department’s excellence and reputation as one of the world’s largest and most prestigious. He helped found the Combined Program in Education and Psychology and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. In addition, he served the profession in many leadership roles, including as President of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the American Association of Higher Education.
His contributions were recognized with numerous awards and honorary degrees as well as with the APA Award for Distinguished Career Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology and the 1998 APA Gold Medal Award for Enduring Contributions to Psychology and the Public Interest.
Beyond these many contributions, Dr. McKeachie will always be remembered for his thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness to many. He is predeceased by his wife, daughter Karen McKeachie, and sister Joyce Doerner and survived by daughter Linda Dicks and her husband Larry Dicks, grand-daughter Erica Wallace, great-granddaughter Addy Carter, brothers Mel McKeachie of Wooster, Ohio, and Duane McKeachie of Flint, MI, and son-in-law Lew Kidder, of Ann Arbor. The family requests that donations be made to the Wilbert (Bill) J. McKeachie Discretionary Endowment Fund--Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.
--Contributed by Patricia Reuter-Lorenz, Psychology Department Chair, based on a U-M retirement memoir.