Remembering Michael Dougher

By Marc Branch and Jack Marr

Dr. Michael Joseph Dougher, of Albuquerque, 71, passed away on Saturday, December 18, 2021. He died doing what he loved—winning at pickleball. Mike was born on November 15, 1950, in Dearborn, Michigan. He was the first child of Joan (Beiss) and Raymond Dougher. His family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was five and he spent his formative years surfing, playing football, working at a hot dog stand, and getting kicked out of numerous Catholic schools.

*From the obituary of Michael Joseph Dougher.

Thus began one of his obituaries. To everyone who knew him, his death came as a stunning shock. How could so viable a spirit be gone?

In 2017 one of us (JM) had the pleasure of introducing him at his ABAI presidential address. We hope this introduction captures some of that spirit:

“Dammit! Some guys really do have it all—looks, super smarts, wit, charm, the athletic prowess of a black diamond skier, an equally-talented and beautiful wife, Kathy, who also happens to be trained as a professional chef, a beautiful home in Albuquerque over-looking the Rio Grande, and God-knows what other treasures. Having known Mike for many years, he continues to surprise me with the depth of his knowledge and the range of his skills.

As Mike begins his address to you in a moment, he will become the 39th ABAI President and few, if any, have come to this office with more sterling credentials for inspired leadership than he.

Trained initially as a clinician at the University of Illinois, Chicago and ascending the academic scale at the University on New Mexico through a unique and integrative combination of basic and applied research in clinical behavior analysis and in complex stimulus control, as well as through outstanding, award-winning teaching. His work in transfer and transformation of function through equivalence and relational frames is definitive. I would add for most of us who find some of this work mind-bogglingly complex, in both methodology and presentation, his studies are among the most lucid and compelling in the literature. He is a master of thoughtful clarity. I heard him give an address in Brazil a few years ago on ACT and it was the first time I (and I suspect most of the rest of his audience) understood what this movement was all about and why it was important.

But wait, there’s more. Let’s face it folks, no matter how eminent (and certainly Mike is), most professors are utterly unsuited to the challenges of administration in the shark tanks of academe. Not so Mike. His multiple talents and passion for scholarship and, especially, the advancement of science—basic and applied—propelled him from Department Chair, to Associate Dean for Research, to Associate Vice President, to Senior Vive-Provost for Academic Affairs, to Vice President for Research. In over 40 years of attendance at these meetings, I personally have known no one who has stood before this gathering awaiting his ABAI presidential address with such gifts and accomplishments as Mike Dougher.”

We had what we like to think was a gifted relation to Mike. Every ABAI, when possible, we would arrange to have dinner at some outstanding restaurant in whatever city the conference met, consuming great food and sometimes even greater wines regaled with much laughter at Mike’s unique wit. We also have especially fond memories of meeting in New Orleans just to enjoy the peerless food and libations for a few days—special times with his bringing joy to us where it would seem he would live forever—we, and all who knew him have lost a great friend and colleague.

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