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UW Profiles

June Etta Downey, UW Professor & Chair


Laramie born and a product of the University of Wyoming, June Etta Downey’s professional career as a UW instructor included English in 1898 and by 1905 she had earned the prestige of professor of English and Philosophy. In 1915 Downey because the first woman in the United States to head an academic department. As head of the philosophy and psychology department, Downey’s enthusiasm for psychology made her an exciting teacher. Her prolific mind led her first toward an interest in creative arts that later rendered two books.

Her major and pioneering work allowed her focus to fall on personality types and testing.  In Downey’s field of measuring personality, she attracted much attention among scholars and her contributions may be regarded as opening new fields for scientific endeavor. During her lifetime Downey published 76 scientific works plus numerous other writings, including poetry, plays, short stories, and popular articles.

In the last decade of her life she received many forms of recognition, including a council appointment to the American Psychology Association (an unusual position for a woman at that time), membership in the Society of Experimentalists, and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She founded the UW chapter of Psi Chi, the national honor society of psychology students.

Downey's further contributions included the UW Alma Mater. Downey Hall is named in her honor.


Courtesy of the Wyoming University, The First 100 Years 1886-1986. Image courtesy of the UW American Heritage Center.

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June Etta Downey

June Downey was the first woman in the United States to head an academic department. Her work in psychology gained national recognition and led to many changes in the field.

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