In Memory of Dr. Joseph French

Pennsylvania school psychologists lost one of their most influential leaders with the passing of Dr. Joseph French in January 2018.  Not only did Joe have a profound role in the field of school psychology, he also contributed prolifically to professional psychology.  He, along with Samuel Knapp and Zita Levin, wrote a History of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association.  Joe helped record the history of psychology in Pennsylvania as well as creating it.  His doctoral thesis was based on the IQ test he developed for special needs children.  The Pictorial Test of Intelligence, Revised, is still in use today.

Dr. French was a past-president of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA) and did much to move PPA into becoming a more member-responsive organization.  He was also one of the founding members of PennPsyPAC, the PPA affiliated political action committee.  He served on the Pennsylvania Psychology Board 1974-2016, including one year as its president.  

Joe developed an independent school psychology program, recruited by Penn State in 1964.  He ran that program until retiring as an emeritus professor of education in 1997.  During his time at Penn State, he served in the Faculty Senate, Graduate Council, College of Education Faculty Council and more.  

Throughout his tenure as a professor in the school psychology program at Penn State, he kept in close contact with the late Dr. Robert Bernreuter, the father of school psychology in Pennsylvania. (Dr. Bernreuter had worked to secure the first governmental recognition of psychologists in Pennsylvania in 1936, when the positions of school psychologists in the Commonwealth were created).  Joe made certain that his students understood the role of the pioneers in creating a public role for psychology and urged them to continue to advocate for public access to psychological services.

Joe was highly respected and appreciated by all those who went through the PSU school psychology program.  He encouraged and instructed the members of each incoming class to support each other and to coalesce as a group.  He was an advocate and practitioner of community, community building, and community service.

For many years Dr. French consulted for the Home of the Merciful Savior, a home for children with cerebral palsy in Philadelphia.  For most of those years, he would cart a bunch of his graduate students to Philadelphia to perform psycho-educational evaluations on residents there in need of such as a means of contributing to and assuring these children’s educational needs were met.  He just could not help himself when it came to helping.  The man practiced what he preached.

Joe received much well-deserved recognition: 
1994-Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania (ASPP);
1998- Illinois State University (ISU) Distinguished Alumnae;
1999- National Association of School Psychologists Legends of School Psychology Award;
2006- ISU College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

Dr. Joseph French had a rich and varied personal life that included camping, traveling, coaching Little League, playing softball, and being a Boy Scout Leader.  He was also a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  While Joe will be deeply missed by his family, his passing will be sorely felt by psychology and school psychology professionals across the Commonwealth and nation.