Passing of Jacob Gewirtz

In a memorandum sent out to the university community by Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton, we’ve learned of the passing of Jacob (Jack) Gewirtz, professor emertitus from the Department of Psychology.

Jacob Gewirtz

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Professor Emeritus Jacob (Jack) Gewirtz from the Department of Psychology. Professor Gewirtz died at the age of 96 on Feb. 12.

Jack was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1945. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and Experimental Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1948. 

In an extraordinary career spanning almost 70 years, Professor Gewirtz taught in psychology departments at the University of Chicago; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Temple University; and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was professor/director of the doctoral program in Developmental Psychology as well as professor of pediatrics. From 1956 to 1976, he served as chief of the Infant Conditioning and Development Lab in the Clinical Center of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1981, Professor Gewirtz moved to Florida International University where he became chair of the Department of Psychology, director of the Developmental Psychology doctoral program, and established the Behavior Analysis programs. He served concurrently as a clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Miami Medical School. 

Professor Gewirtz’s research and theory interests were in social and attachment learning, behavior analytical explanations of imitation, moral development and fears. The depth and breadth of his research and professional accomplishments are likely to be unmatched around developmental psychology and, in particular, the role of behavior analysis in understanding child development and parenting. He was a pioneering researcher in this area who produced more than 100 scholarly works and trained some of the most eminent figures in behavioral development. He was recognized for his substantial contributions by his selection as an American Psychological Association Fellow in six different divisions.

Professor Gewirtz has been described by his colleagues as a “larger than life” force, both socially and intellectually. He was utterly charming and caring. At conferences, he was always surrounded by colleagues and admirers listening intently, because he was sometimes extraordinarily erudite, sometimes provocative, but always worth listening to. 

He retired from FIU in 2013 as emeritus professor in psychology. Professor Gewirtz was a devoted father and is survived by his sons Jonathan and Dan. Many of his former colleagues and doctoral students who work at FIU will miss him dearly.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.