Sidebar Site Navigation
Wilson J. Walthall, Jr.* -- 2002 -- Outstanding Former Faculty
Professor Emeritus Wilson J. Walthall, Jr., came to the University of Wyoming in 1947 as an assistant professor. He had just completed his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Texas.
Walthall’s students viewed him as an innovative and stimulating professor, and they were impressed by the many papers he presented before psychological associations and the numerous research articles that he published in psychology journals. His areas of interest included latent learning, the behavior of plants, and physiological motivation caused by the central nervous system-body interactions. A visible and influential educator, Walthall’s former students remember him for his helpful and respectful demeanor.
“What I remember most about Dr. Walthall,” commented Beverly Lyon Wiseman (a former student), “was that he made psychology more practical than theoretical and, moreover, that he respected his students—even freshmen and sophomores.”
College of Arts and Sciences alumnus Gregory P. Snipes noted, “Perhaps the most memorable single trait that I recall about Dr. Walthall was a comment that was often thrown around the Psychology Department that situations you may not like, but nonetheless might have to live with, were ‘character building.’ This was comment that Dr. Walthall would often use both as a way of defusing tension when conflict arose over issues, as well as a way of perhaps giving the complaintant a frame of reference by which to gain some sense of value out of their experience.”
As a sponsor of the intramural basketball team known as “Walthall’s Warriors,” he was omnipresent during the games and encouraged the players to do their best on the court. A former student, Paul L. Craig, noted, “Not only was Professor Walthall an enthusiastic sponsor of the graduate students’ basketball team, he was champion of all psychology students at the university, encouraging them to achieve the highest possible standards in their training and subsequent pursuits.”
In 1965, Walthall became chair of the Psychology and Philosophy Department, as it was then known. One of his first acts in that position was to separate psychology and philosophy because he believed that it would never attain its rightful place as long as it was an appendage of another department. During his tenure as department chair, Walthall more than doubled the number of undergraduate courses and faculty and established a high level of research productivity and grant support. The graduate program was extended to the doctoral level with its clinical program fully accredited by the American Psychological Association, and he worked to strengthen the neuroscience program.
Walthall’s managerial and administrative talents were much appreciated by the university when he served as the acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (during the last six months of 1973) and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (from 1977-1979), acting head of the Department of Botany (1980-1981), and acting head of the Department of Recreation and Parks (1983). Walthall also chaired several committees dealing with issues such as religious education, the curriculum, the American Heritage Center (AHC), educational administration, campus planning, and retirement and health insurance. Walthall maintains his interest in and involvement with the university by working on communities dealing with retirement and health benefits for UW employees. He also is a former member of the Board of Associates for the AHC.
Walthall has received many honors, including the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1982 and the University of Wyoming Trustee Award in 1984. He is past president of the Wyoming Psychological Association and the Wyoming Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. He belongs to the honorary societies of Phi Beta Kappa, Psi Chi, and Sigma Xi.
*In loving memory.