Professor Emeritus of Psychology Harold Babb

Harold Babb, professor emeritus of psychology, died at his home in Waddington, N.Y., on Sept. 4, 2011 — his 85th birthday — following a short illness. His wife of 64 years, Marjorie, 83, died on Sept. 26.

After serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Babb received his PhD in general psychology from Ohio State University. He was hired at Binghamton as chair of the Department of Psychology in 1971, coming from a similar position at the University of Montana. He retired in 1995, after a 24-year career at Binghamton, though he continued to teach on a part-time basis until 1999. His research interests focused on the effects of motivation on the behavior of animals.

Babb “was a gentleman (of the old school) and a scholar,” said Ralph Miller, distinguished professor of psychology. “When he first arrived at Binghamton from the University of Montana, he served as department chair and contributed to turning the department toward its current emphasis on research.

“Hal was noted for his fairness, and he distinguished himself by being the best-dressed man in the department,” Miller added.

“The three years he served as Psychology Department chair were probably the most important in shaping today’s department,” said Richard Pastore, distinguished service professor of psychology.

During Babb’s tenure as chair, the graduate program in clinical psychology was launched, and the decision to develop three graduate tracks (behavioral neuroscience, clinical and cognitive) was made. In addition, “Science 4 had been designed for the largely undergraduate program that had existed in the mid-1960s, and was under construction,” said Pastore, who noted that Babb’s wife, Marge, played an important role as the department grew.

“Between faculty growth and replacement, a great deal of effort was needed entertaining candidates,” he said. “Hal’s wife, Marge, was the perfect, gracious host at many of these sessions … always the efficient, welcoming family side of the effort.”

An avid hunter and fisherman, Pastore said Babb always kept his bow and arrows in top condition, “sometimes succumbing to a brief illness on the first day of bow season.” Babb also enjoyed bird-watching and gardening, and was an accomplished violinist, genealogist and voracious reader.

The Babbs are survived by three children, Patricia C. Bendert and son-in-law Edward; Barbara L. Babb; and David E. Babb and wife Kathleen; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and Marjorie’s brother, Kenneth Leask.