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Dr. Dorothy Eichorn

1924 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Dr.  Dorothy Eichorn Obituary
Dr. Dorothy H. Eichorn

Known to her friends and colleagues as "Dot," Dorothy H. Eichorn died peacefully on March 22, 2018, at the Meadows of Napa Valley, where she was receiving skilled nursing care. She was attended at her passing by her son Eric and her longtime caregiver Monica Johnson. Her health had been in decline for several years due to Lewy body dementia.

Dorothy Marie Hansen was born on November 18, 1924, in Montpelier, Vermont. She was raised there by her parents George Marinus Hansen and Lula Maria (Ryan) Hansen, along with her younger sister Laurel (Mrs. Frederick Reed) and her cousin Helen (Mrs. Harry Betts), whom she always considered to be her elder sister. She had a half-brother, Harry Ryan, who died while serving in the Navy when she was a small child. Her father worked for the National Life Insurance Company and her mother managed a local grocery store. Dot attended Montpelier High School where she was on the debate team, as was her sister Laurel. She was salutatorian of her 1941 graduating class.

She received her B.A. cum laude with special honors in psychology (with a minor in zoology) in 1947 at the University of Vermont, her M.A. in psychology in 1949 at Boston University, and her Ph.D. in psychology (with a minor in physiology) in 1951 at Northwestern University. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

While attending UVM she had various part time jobs, including with the Vermont Church Council. In the course of that employment she met Herman "Ike" Eichorn, a young pastor serving in his first parish. After a period of courtship, Ike proposed marriage. Dot initially declined, saying that she wanted to continue her education and have a career in psychology. When he surprised her by saying, "You can do both," she reconsidered and they were married in June 1947. While Dot obtained her advanced degrees, Ike continued his pastoral work in Vermont and then trained in chaplaincy in Elgin, Illinois. After Dot received her doctorate in 1951, they moved to Napa, where he was Protestant Chaplain at Napa State Hospital until his retirement in 1987. Their son Eric was born in 1955.

Dot became a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development (IHD) at the University of California, Berkeley in late 1951. For the first few years she also lectured at UCB in physiology and then quit teaching to concentrate on research. She was involved in a number of studies of child development, but perhaps the most notable was the Berkeley Growth Study, a longitudinal study of physical and mental development that started with a subject pool of babies born in Berkeley in 1928-29 and followed them through childhood and into adulthood. By the 1960s she and colleague Dr. Nancy Bayley were collecting data on the children of the original subjects, and Dot took over as director of the study when Bayley left for a position at the National Institutes of Health. Dot became administrator of the Child Study Center, a nursery school operated by IHD, starting in 1962, and associate director of IHD starting in 1976. She retired from the University in 1989.

Her considerable administrative skills benefitted a number of professional societies as well as the Institute. She served on many committees and councils of the American Psychological Association, was a member of its Board of Directors from 1969-72 and was President of its Division on Developmental Psychology in 1968-69. She was a founding member of the American Psychological Society (now known as the Association for Psychological Science). She was President of the Western Psychological Association in 1988.

A group that benefitted greatly from Dot's involvement was the Society for Research in Child Development. She was introduced to SRCD while at Northwestern by faculty member Dr. Tom Richards, who was its business manager. When she got to IHD, one of her colleagues, Harold Jones, M.D., was its President, and most of her other colleagues there were members, so she joined. She was actively involved with SRCD throughout the 1960s, and was recruited as Executive Officer in 1971 upon the death of Dr. Margaret Harlow who had held the position. The SRCD's executive office was moved to Berkeley at that point. She served as EO until her retirement in 1989, when Dr. John Hagen took over the position. During her tenure, SRCD grew considerably in membership (from 2,000 to 4,000), budget, journal subscriptions, convention attendance, and influence in the field of child development. She is remembered by her colleagues for her strong organizational skills, balanced with a ready sense of humor.

Dot was preceded in death by her husband Ike and both of her sisters and their husbands. She is survived by her son Eric Eichorn of Hayward; by her nieces, Mary Luci Stephens of Goshen, Vermont, Martha Jo Reed of Lyndonville, Vermont, and Dorothy (Dody) Barrett of Northfield, Vermont; and by their partners, children, and grandchildren.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from July 11 to July 15, 2018
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