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Asher R. Pacht, PhD
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Asher R. Pacht, PhD

July 2, 1922 – March 14, 2017

Copied/adapted from Barbara Van Horne, PhD, MBA, and Jory Pacht

Asher R. Pacht cared so deeply and genuinely that all those with whom he worked were enriched by his presence. He was a model in every arena of professional practice. He carried the same level of dedication into leadership in professional affairs, teaching and clinical practice as he did in pioneering efforts to bring effective treatment to correctional clients. His significant impact on the quality of psychological services provided to the public through his decades of research and treatment of sex offenders, his vision and initiative in developing training standards and models for treatment of mentally ill correctional clients, his mentoring of young professionals in public service, his leadership and service in numerous and varied professional organizations, and his commitment to the regulation and licensing of psychologists with an emphasis on public protection was unparalleled. A gentleman, scholar, humanitarian, visionary, skier, oenophile, dapper dresser, psychologist’s psychologist and, sometime magician, Asher devoted his career to serving the profession and the public.

Asher was born in Youngstown, Ohio. Called to service in World War II prior to graduation, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, in absentia, in 1944 from Ohio University. He served as a parachute infantry officer and ultimately was Acting Military Governor in Honshu, Japan, until his discharge in 1946 as Captain, US Army. Returning to Ohio University, he received bachelors and masters degrees, both in psychology. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology at UW Madison in 1953.

Asher’s first professional job was with the WI Division of Corrections. He resigned 24 years later as Director of the Bureau of Clinical Services. Through his leadership in national correctional organizations, consultation in 25 states, and work with students and new professionals, he influenced the perception and practice of psychology in criminal justice settings throughout the country.  He was labeled by colleagues as the "father" of correctional psychology.

In 1957 Asher began teaching in the Clinical Psychology Department at UW Madison, where, in 1977, he was appointed Director of the Psychology Research and Training Clinic. He retired as emeritus clinical professor of psychology and psychiatry in 1991 and supervised graduate students until age 84.  

In 1961, he began a private practice of clinical psychology with a multidisciplinary group. Retiring after 40 years in practice, he was known by colleagues as the "psychologists' psychologist."

Asher was highly active in professional affairs. He was a Fellow of APA and of Divisions 12, 18, 27, 29 and 31. Also a Fellow of WPA, he was twice elected president. He was also president of the American Association of Correctional Psychologists and the APA Division of Public Service. He was elected to two terms on both the APA Council of Representatives and Board of Professional Affairs. He served two terms on the WI Psychology Examining Board and was chair from 1986 to 1991. He served on the Board of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and was its president in 1992-93. He was ASPPB Director of Professional Affairs from 1994-2003.

During his career, Asher received major professional honors from the American Correctional Association, the American Association of Correctional Psychologists, WPA, APA, the National Academies of Practice in Psychology, and the National Register of Health Service Providers. The honor he most appreciated was the APA Foundation Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in the Public Interest in 2006, capping his exemplary career in public service.

Asher’s wife of 67 years, Perle, preceded him in death in July of 2015. He is survived by sons Jory, a geologist, and Eric, a physician, and their families.

Contributions may be made to the Asher R. Pacht Scholarship Fund, Wisconsin Psychology Foundation, 126 South Franklin Street, Madison WI 53703. Online contributions can be made by going to www.wipsychology.org and clicking on the Donations tab.

 

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