Remembering David P. Jarmolowicz

By Sally Huskinson and Tonya Woods

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of our beloved colleague, mentor, and friend, David “Dave” P. Jarmolowicz. Dave’s influence extended far, and it is an understatement to say that he was highly regarded in all areas of his life. Anyone who knew Dave could tell you about his enthusiasm and curiosity for the science of behavior analysis. This made working with him both pleasurable and memorable. He challenged others to think differently. Dave was the kind of person from whom you walked away from an encounter feeling changed or enlightened, or at least thinking about a concept in a new way. For as much as Dave contributed to the field, it was the love and pride he felt for his wife, Allison Tetreault, and their daughters, Evelyn and Vivian, that truly fulfilled him. The joy he experienced being a husband and father was unmatched.

Many of us are attending the ABAI Annual Convention this weekend, where Dave and Allison’s presence will be deeply missed. Whether at the convention or elsewhere, we ask that you remember Dave as we do, by raising a toast with a warm smile and a kind nod.

Dave’s close friends and colleagues are spread throughout the country. His loved ones created a GoFundMe account to show support for his family from afar. Please visit: GoFundMe for family of Dave Jarmolowicz if you wish to donate.

Another individual Dave spoke of with great reverence was his mentor and friend, Andy Lattal.  Andy shared the following memories that truly captured the pleasure of knowing Dave.

Some Reflections on Dave Jarmolowicz’s Life

By Andy Lattal

I became a colleague of Dave’s during his tenure as a graduate student in my lab at West Virginia University (WVU) during the years 2006-2010. During that time, Dave distinguished himself by both the kind of person he was and by his research and scholarship. Dave mastered the idea of an experimental analysis of behavior. He really “got it.” “Doing research” wasn’t coming into the lab for an hour a day and running a squad of pigeons on one experiment and then moving on to other things in his life. Research was being there and being invested. It was starting with a question and then letting the answers guide him through to other questions and issues, always tying them together but also allowing what he learned to move you in new directions. Research became Dave’s professional life at WVU. That said, he did, other things like his coursework and his teaching with equal vigor and competence, but it was clear that his heart was in research. That is pretty much where he stayed until his untimely death this week.

My most vivid image of our times together is him coming into my office for our weekly meeting with a huge stack of file folders, each associated with a different experiment he was conducting with me. Not only was it hard for me to keep track of the myriad projects, but we rarely had the time to review them all in our allotted meeting time. Extensions became the norm, and review them we did. The thing was, they were all good projects and nothing was more fun than sharing Dave’s boundless enthusiasm for what he was doing. Nothing was done for the sake of just being busy. Each project was well thought out and each was designed to contribute in a significant way to one or more aspects of some general problem of interest to him, and to me.

Dave’s enthusiasm was contagious, as was his positive outlook on everything. I have said in other places during this sad time of transition to a world in which he is no longer with us that he was among the most positive people I have run across in life.  He was no Pollyanna with his head buried in the sand, he just always saw the top part of the cup as a place to fill with possibilities. When things went sour with a project, he was the first to come up with a way to salvage it or to use what we had as the basis for asking the next question. Behavior like this made working with him a sheer joy. When someone might make a snide or other negative comment about another person, or some other approach to the study of psychological issues, Dave’s reflexive response was one of circumspection rather than judgement. Although conceptually a behavior analyst to his very core, Dave always maintained perspective and a balanced point of view with respect to people and ideas counter to his own world view. He had his point of view and was sufficiently comfortable with it; others and their ideas were not seen as threatening – or necessarily useful.

I don’t experientially know what was Dave was like as a faculty colleague, mentor, or teacher. But, based on the above, I conceptually know that he must have been exceptional in all of those arenas in his career after leaving my lab in May of 2010. His record since that departure, including but not limited to his appointment as an Associate Editor of JEAB, certainly reinforces my observation. 

It is common to speak of graduate students being influenced by their mentors, but, of course, it is a two-way street. Working with Dave made me a better mentor, teacher, and human being. He challenged me in positive ways, often inviting me to rethink my views on problems of interest to us both. When I hesitate before coming out with something negative, it is often a little of my history with Dave being manifest in my present verbal behavior. He just affected people like that. 

When one has been a faculty member as long as I have, and have mentored as many PhDs as I have, one might think they all would all meld together into an amorphous mass of “former graduate students.” Well, they don’t. I develop a unique relationship with each one, and each one holds a special place in my professional and personal life. And so it is with Dave Jarmolowicz. After his departure from WVU, even though our contact was limited to an occasional email and a few minutes conversation or maybe a lunch or dinner at ABAI, Dave was always there in one of those special places in my life. That special place now is empty, but I shall never forget the fine, decent, intelligent, and moral person who resided there from the time I met him until this week.

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