[dropcap sid=”dropcap-1426101932″]T[/dropcap]he College community was saddened by the news of the passing of alumnus and former beloved faculty member and administrator Dr. Angelo Dispenzieri on Feb. 8, 2015. He was 85 years old.
A graduate of the class of 1953, Dispenzieri was the son of Sicilian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn. He had six siblings.
After earning his City College/Baruch bachelor’s degree, he earned a doctorate in psychology from New York University in 1961. At his alma mater, Dispenzieri was a professor of psychology and also served as Baruch’s dean of the Evening and Extension Division, an important role in a college with a historically large part-time student population.
Below four alumni—Walter Reichman (’63), Benjamin Schneider (MBA ’62), Abe Fenster (’62), and Harvey Barocas (’64)—all profoundly affected by this professor—offer personal tributes to the teacher, scholar, mentor, and friend they remember.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Dr. Walter Reichman (’63) Remembers[/pullquote]
I was a 20-year-old City College psychology major when I decided to take an industrial psychology course at City College’s Baruch School of Business and Public Administration (today’s Baruch College) during the summer of 1959. Why Baruch? Because I was working in Manhattan and because it seemed appropriate to take an industrial psychology course at a business school. That summer, a 29-year-old instructor, Angelo Dispenzieri, who was completing his PhD at NYU, became my teacher, my mentor, my friend, my muse, and the older brother I always wanted. He was instrumental in my developing a philosophy of life—recognizing what really matters in life—and in my thinking about the role of psychology in my life and the world of business. During that eight-week summer session, he influenced the direction of my career and life.
Angelo presented a view of industrial psychology that was different from the way it was practiced and researched at that time. He presented a humanistic orientation to industrial psychology in which the employee and his well-being—not the bottom line success of the business organization—were the focus of attention. This focus directed the course of my professional life, which led me away from the mainstream of industrial psychology for many years. In recent years, however, Angelo’s orientation has become a part of the mainstream of the discipline: there is now a branch of industrial psychology known as humanitarian work psychology. My involvement in this movement is a direct result of being Angelo’s student and adopting his philosophy all those years ago.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]Angelo treated me differently than any other teacher ever had: with respect, with respect for me as a person and as someone with ability and potential who was worth teaching and befriending.[/pullquote]
I came to Baruch in 1961 as an MBA student in industrial psychology with a teaching assistantship in the Psychology Department, which Angelo was instrumental in my getting. The Psychology Department at that time reflected Angelo’s approach to students and to his understanding of the role of a college.
My love for Angelo and for the department was solidified during my years as a graduate assistant. He and I began to collaborate on a number of small projects during those years. I spent every Saturday at his home working with him and enjoying the company of his wonderful family: his first wife, Fay (Francine), and his young daughters, Betsy (Elizabeth) and Angie (Angela). I was at home with my big brother and his—my—family and grew intellectually and emotionally from the experience. I even dated a cousin of Fay’s with the thought of becoming an actual member of the family, but that did not happen.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]I saw and learned another side of Angelo when he was my thesis advisor. He was an excellent researcher and writer who demanded an extremely high caliber of performance from the students he mentored.[/pullquote] He spent hours reviewing our work, demanding perfection before he approved a written line of our theses. My first presentation at a psychology conference was based on my master’s thesis. I thought Angelo should be credited as a co-author, but he refused, saying it was my work and that I deserved the credit. In actuality, I could not have done it without him.
In my last year as a graduate assistant, I asked the chairman of the department to let me teach a summer session course. He refused, saying I wasn’t ready yet. Angelo told me to prepare a course in industrial psychology, and he would see to it that I taught it. Two weeks before the beginning of the summer semester, Angelo told the chair he would not be teaching his course but knew someone who could fill in. Thus began my teaching career at Baruch, which lasted until the beginning of 2002.
When I met the woman I wanted to marry, I brought her to meet Angelo before I brought her to meet my parents. Much to my delight, they liked each other.
In my years with Angelo and his family, I learned great lessons in child-rearing, which carried over to the raising of my children. I remember one such instance: My wife and I and the Dispenzieris were in a fancy shop that sold expensive crystal. Angelo and Fay were looking at a big, heavy crystal vase. When they decided against it, Angelo handed it to his younger daughter, Angie (now a physician), and asked her to replace it on the third shelf of a glass case. I remember her grasping the heavy vase, standing on her tiptoes, and barely holding the edge against the shelf. As I moved into position to catch the vase, Angelo turned away from his daughter with a look of extreme confidence. When she got the vase in place, she turned to him. He patted her on the head and said, “Good.” [pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103046″ type=”1″]He had confidence in his children, his friends, and his students, and all of them strived to live up to his expectations.[/pullquote]
When I completed my doctorate, Angelo hired me to work on a major research project dealing with the community colleges. Once again I was under the tutelage of a first-class researcher.
Angelo took on very important administrative duties at Baruch when he became dean of the Evening and Extension Division. He turned his attention to a very important component of the Baruch student body, those men and women who worked all day and came to school in the evening while supporting and raising families. Because of Angelo, policies and procedure began to take them into account.
In the years that followed, our friendship continued. We attended each other’s family events and celebrated life together. Angelo’s second wife, Eileen, became a great friend of mine and a great support to Angelo in the years he battled post-polio syndrome. His struggle to overcome polio was never apparent to anyone he worked with. He was always strong, vibrant, energetic, and full of definite opinions supported by evidence and a powerful code of ethics.
He was significant in my life and career and in the lives and careers of many, many students.
About the Dr. Reichman
Walter Reichman, EdD, is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He chaired the Department of Psychology for 17 years. He is currently a partner in the organizational psychology consulting firm OrgVitality. He is the main representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology. His recently edited book, Industrial and Organizational Psychology Help the Vulnerable: Serving the Underserved, was published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Dr. Benjamin Schneider (MBA ’62) Remembers[/pullquote]
I graduated from Alfred University in the spring of 1960 and, with the urging of my soon-to-be-wife Brenda, applied to the brand-new Baruch School of Business and Public Administration MBA Program in Industrial Psychology. I knew Mortimer Feinberg—a faculty member in the program—through my parents, because he lived near Croton, where we lived. Mort told me that he and his colleagues were going to try to train industrial psychologists who had some knowledge of business, a novel idea then and still. The new Baruch program was an evening program, which fit my needs, as I was working full time in Manhattan.
My first class with Angelo was called Theories in Psychology, if I remember correctly. We used a text edited by Marx, apparently the best such book at the time. This was not theory in industrial psychology but theory in psychology writ large. Even so, Angelo presented the text as a foundation for industrial psychology, since he knew the students would get plenty of instruction on the practice side from Feinberg and Ben Balinsky, who also ran a consulting firm.
It is hard to explain the impact Angelo’s classes had on my personal and professional future, but I’ll try.
Angelo just seemed to really love the field: he loved discussing it with the class, teaching us about it, answering our questions, and making sure we got the message in each of the chapters he assigned. He pushed us to gain a fuller understanding of the theories through discussion of them.
Angelo was also my adviser for my research-based master’s thesis. Again he pushed me to balance theory and data, a lesson I learned well and have pursued ever since.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]Angelo connected with his students beyond the classroom. I remember the evening he and his wife had all of us in that initial cohort—including our spouses—over to their home, something I forever after have done with my students.[/pullquote]
I believe I was the first student to graduate with an MBA in industrial psychology from the Baruch School, class of 1962. But that was just the onset of my interest in the field. Under Angelo’s tutelage, I became quite excited about research, and he recommended I apply to the University of Maryland. In 1964, after serving two years in the U.S. Army, I enrolled at Maryland, earning a PhD in 1967.
I have had an interesting and wonderful career because Angelo showed me the possibilities of integrating theory and research with practice.
Before I close this note of appreciation, I want to add a few thoughts from Dr. Irwin L. (Irv) Goldstein (’59), who passed away a few years ago. Irv was an undergraduate student of Angelo’s and continuously spoke of the impact Angelo had on him as a person and as a professional.
In short, Angelo Dispenzieri had a wonderful influence on me in many ways, and I will always remember him with great fondness.
About Dr. Schneider
Benjamin Schneider, PhD (MBA ’62) is a senior research fellow with CEB’s Talent Management Labs.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Dr. Abe Fenster (’62) Remembers[/pullquote]
On the 50th anniversary of his graduation from City College/Baruch, Dr. Abe Fenster (’62) wrote to his college professor Dr. Angelo Dispenzieri. Dr. Fenster asked that we share this spontaneous letter from 2012 as his tribute to this special man and mentor.
June 20, 2012
Dear Dr. Dispenzieri,
This month marks the 50th anniversary of my graduation from City College. As I think back over my entire academic experience, I am so pleased that I took your general psychology course, which then led to my taking additional courses with you in industrial and experimental psychology as well as an independent study course. You also provided invaluable career and some personal counseling to me without any compensation. Moreover, when I received my PhD, you spoke with Professor Ben Balinsky and successfully recommended me as an adjunct to teach a graduate experimental psychology course.
For most of my life, I had considered my education something that I had to do, not something I wanted to do. It was a form of work rather than pleasure, and I found it only minimally fulfilling. My experience with you was different. From the beginning, I looked forward to each of your lectures (and even felt deprived if a film was shown in class or a psychological test administered). I always experienced you as dedicated, interesting, authentic, nonpossessive, and committed.
As you may or may not remember, for 40 years I was a psychology professor at John Jay College. I retired in 2007 and continue to work part time as a psychotherapist. I consider my career to have been successful and gratifying in part because I assimilated some of your attitude, enthusiasm, and general approach to scholarship.
Were it not for my working and studying with you, my career and much of my life would surely have turned out very differently. For that, I can only say thank you very much.
About Dr. Fenster
Dr. Fenster is Professor Emeritus and founding chairperson of the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Dr. Harvey Barocas (’64) Remembers[/pullquote]
Dr. D, or Angelo as he preferred to be called, was a remarkable man, an outstanding teacher and administrator, as well as a beloved colleague and dear friend. Embodying the qualities of hope, optimism, and resilience, he was an advocate of positive psychology long before it emerged on the national scene. While others afflicted with polio may have withdrawn from life and sat on the sidelines, Angelo embraced life fully. I never thought of him as physically challenged or disabled. His enormous energy and zest for life made trying to keep up with him physically challenging for many of us.
Where others saw problems, Angelo saw opportunities for growth, change, and development. In addition to being a superb teacher, Angelo was an exceptional psychotherapist and healer. He was frequently sought out not only for his keen analytic mind but for his deep sense of humanity and compassion. He was a wonderful human being who earned the respect and admiration of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.
I first met Angelo over 50 years ago as an 18-year-old undergraduate at Baruch College when I enrolled in his Introductory Psychology class. He had that rare gift as a teacher to expand your mind and touch your heart. He was a renaissance man whose love of psychology, science, anthropology, music, and art infused his lectures with an intellectual passion that was simply infectious. [pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]Angelo was the teacher’s teacher and the mentor’s mentor, always generous with his time and wisdom.[/pullquote] For an undergraduate thinking about career options, Angelo was an inspiration for my development as a clinical psychologist. I was his student, fellow, colleague, and friend in a relationship that spanned more than a half century.
One of my fondest memories of Angelo was when he decided to teach the jumbo Introductory Psychology lecture when Baruch was transitioning from small recitation classes to large lectures. I remember, at the time, being concerned about Angelo’s capacity to handle such a daunting teaching assignment, but he quickly proved me wrong. Angelo became a chariot of fire, rushing down the aisles of Mason Hall on his crutches, followed by a large group of students. [pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]Standing at the podium, Angelo displayed what outstanding teaching was all about. Soon students would be singing his praises, and at the end of every semester, he would receive a standing ovation. Students were so appreciative of all he had given them.[/pullquote]
Angelo was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, completely devoted to his family. Those of us who knew him were blessed to have him in our lives. He inspired and mentored countless students who went on to receive their doctorates. His warmth, kindness, and generosity endeared him to a generation of Baruchians. He was a legend in his time, and legends never die, especially a chariot of fire. To know him was to love him.
About Dr. Barocas
Dr. Barocas is a professor of psychology in Baruch’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Doctoral Faculty in Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center. A clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst, Barocas specializes in adjustment issues, psychological trauma, and crisis intervention. He is the director of a field work/internship program and conducts workshops and training programs on child abuse, victims’ assistance, sexual harassment, and workplace violence. He is the co-author of Personal Adjustment and Growth: A Life-Span Approach (William C. Brown, 1990).
Barocas has been recognized with such honors as the Baruch College Distinguished Teaching Award, National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellowships, and the CUNY Doctoral Alumni Association Achievement Award.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Tom Diamante (PhD ’87) Remembers[/pullquote]
Dr. Angelo Dispenzieri had a lasting and profound influence on my development. He was my professor, mentor, and friend.
Angelo was the principal reason I pursued psychology professionally. He stretched, supported, nurtured, and challenged me at every turn. Did I mention he was fun to be with?
Dr. D. brought wit and humor that would light up a room. He found the best in everybody. His level of concern for others, combined with an encyclopedic command of applied research, made him a formidable mentor. I am a lucky guy.
On a personal note, I remember being the young graduate student that was also bringing a daughter into the world and I asked him for a bit of counsel. “Just love her,” he said. Straightforward. Good advice.
Angelo encouraged my reading of many disciplines in psychology and reinforced efforts to integrate the research. He wouldn’t let me get away with coloring inside the lines. No way.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426102460″]He was imaginative, creative, and inspirational. Think broadly, integrate, go ahead, and connect what is not yet connected, he counseled.[/pullquote]
Perhaps an interesting tidbit is that upon completion of my industrial degree I entered a one-year postdoctoral program in cognitive behavioral therapy.
Angelo provided C-level consultations to a number of Fortune 500 companies. He generously taught me how to consult, counsel, and advise using complex, highly sensitive psychological cases. It was a special experience to gain this window into the executive board room, especially given that I was merely an eager student. It wasn’t his day job to work with me in this manner.
Dr. D. made heavy investments in people in general and in me, I share humbly. He cared. It showed. And it had impact.
My last name begins with a “D”’—oftentimes I am called Dr. D. It makes me smile.
About Dr. Diamante
Tom Diamante is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist. He held executive positions at Merrill Lynch, KPMG Consulting, and Altria. His experience is C-level, cross-industry, and cross-cultural. His practice is centered on executive development, accelerating venture success, and building cultures that sustain a company’s product as the practice director at cca, inc., a privately held company.
Attention Psychology Alumni:
Do you have a memory of Professor and Dean Angelo Dispenzieri to share? Please share it here or e-mail email@example.com.
[pullquote sid=”pullquote-1426103131″ type=”2″]Answering the Call: Dr. Haskel Simonowitz (’60) Remembers Dr. Dispenzieri[/pullquote]
I, too, remember Dr. Angelo Dispenzieri’s kindness and humanity, for which I remain very grateful.
Here’s my anecdote:
One day in class, he mentioned a device he used on his doctoral exams. He listed a bibliography for each question and referred to it in his answers. Twenty years later, I did the same thing when I wrote my own PhD exams. I may even have improved on his technique, because my bibliographies were in four languages. So indifferent student that I was at the time, I nevertheless benefited from his class—in more ways than one.
—Dr. Haskel Simonowitz (’60)