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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Psychology Professor Emeritus Merv Shaw

Stars shine above Trinity Hall.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Professor Emeritus Merville “Merv” Shaw, who taught psychology at Chico State for 31 years, passed away September 18. He was 93.

Born March 19, 1925, in Wilmington, Delaware, Shaw grew up in Buffalo, New York, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics from Franklin & Marshall College and a master’s and PhD in psychology from Syracuse University. He taught briefly at Oregon State before he was hired at Chico State College in 1952 as a professor in the psychology department and testing officer for the college.

Portrait of Merville ShawThroughout his tenure, Shaw had a reputation for a distinguished academic and professional career in which he earned the esteem, admiration, and respect of his colleagues and students. With the exception of a four-year departure from Chico State to teach at UCLA in the early 1960s, he served on at least one committee per year throughout his entire career, including Faculty Council, Faculty Senate, and a number of ad hoc committees. He was among the first recipients of the Professional Achievement Honors awards at the time of their founding in 1981, and he was honored with the Outstanding Professor Award in 1984.

Shaw also held numerous research grants during his career—one of which is purported to be the first research grant ever secured at Chico State, with funding support from the US Public Health Service in 1959. Shaw also had research grants from the California State Department of Public Health and the California State Department of Education, among others.

Professor Art Sanchez shares that it was Shaw, along with faculty Dave Hicks and Bill Rector, who developed the School Psychology, School Counseling, and Counseling Psychology Programs. As the primary architect of “preventative” methods and curriculum, Shaw helped embed those tenets across each of the counselor education and psychology graduate counseling programs—which were among the first of their kind to be developed in California.

“Together with his colleagues, they were able to advance an innovative, progressive, and empirically sound curriculum that was arguably a beacon in the region as well as throughout the profession,” Sanchez said.

Shaw is remembered not only as a leader within his discipline but also for mentoring new faculty and a legacy of students who have gone on to have significant careers in the fields of psychology and education. He was especially passionate about the emphasis and value of prevention-oriented services in the schools, as he advocated for counseling and guidance early in life that address both a child’s home and school experiences.

“I remember my early days as a young professor stepping into the shadow of a brilliant, dedicated, and pioneering man. It was daunting and intimidating,” recalled professor Neil Schwartz. “But, Merv’s progressive and innovative thinking had a profound influence on the way I conceptualized the field and the seriousness of purpose with which I coordinated his program for 12 years. I was honored to be able to do it, and I think of him often.”

“I believe he would be deeply satisfied to know that his legacy continued in the evolution of the fine school psychology program he began at Chico State decades ago,” Schwartz added.

In addition to presenting his research and expertise on the national and global level, Shaw had an extensive history of publication. He also passionately volunteered his expertise as a consultant to nonprofits and numerous school districts in California, New Mexico, Nebraska and New York. He retired from Chico State in 1987.

Shaw is survived by his four children: Sara McDaniel, Douglas Shaw, Richard Shaw, and Paul Shaw. His family is holding private services but suggested anyone wanting to make a contribution in their father’s name do so through the Nature Conservancy. The University flag will be lowered on Monday, October 1, in his honor.