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Longtime counseling director John Black dies at 74
STANFORD - John D. Black, longtime director of counseling services at Stanford University and founder and chairman of Consulting Psychologists Press, died of cancer at his campus home on June 3. He had just turned 74.
In 1950, Black joined the Stanford psychology faculty and transformed the old Veteran's Guidance Center into the first Counseling and Testing Center on campus. Under his direction, the center provided thousands of students and community members with educational, vocational and personal counseling.
Later, as coordinator of research in the Dean of Students office in the early 1970s, Black oversaw surveys of Stanford students and disseminated information about their needs and attitudes to faculty, alumni and administrators.
He retired in 1976 to devote his time to publishing psychological tests and educational materials.
Black probably will be remembered best by students for his seminars on "The Meaning of Death," which he first offered in 1963. The seminars, which often met at his home, focused on public policy, literature and theology relating to death; funeral rites in different cultures; and attitudes of children and adults toward death.
Although he accepted regular term papers, he urged his students to express their thoughts on death through musical composition, sculpture, painting, creative writing and photography.
"At the end of the quarter," he said in a 1969 interview, "the students usually come away without clearly having resolved their feelings, but with a better attitude because they have dealt with and discussed death and shared feelings with their peers."
Black often asked his students to think about what they would do if told they had only a short time left to live. Ironically, his own death came just six weeks after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"He faced it with a lot of courage," said his son, Gordon Black. "He tried hard to get his affairs in order. We went up to Bodega Bay and spent time there. He definitely enjoyed having us all close."
Black was born in Peoria, Ill., in 1919 and spent his youth in steel towns in western Pennsylvania and Indiana. He attended Northwestern University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1941.
After four years of service in the U.S. Army, he married Dorothy Ann Booz, then earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Minnesota.
Black was highly regarded for his contributions to the counseling profession. In addition to his work at Stanford, he organized the first group practice of psychology in Northern California - Consulting Psychologists Associated - and was instrumental in developing the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology and Kara, a volunteer support organization for those experiencing life-threatening illness and grief.
In 1956, Black founded Consulting Psychologists Press, a leading independent publisher of psychological tests, books and educational materials. He was instrumental in the success of one of its most popular publications, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and in the management of the Strong Interest Inventory, a well-known career guidance tool.
Black also was consultant to the U.S. Office of Education, the Veteran's Administration, Stanford University Press, and several large corporations; a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and a long-time member of the Peninsula Kiwanis Club, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.
Among his writings are Some Principles and Techniques of Employee Counseling, essays in Provocative Perspectives and articles in the Stanford Magazine.
Black is survived by his wife, Dorothy Booz Black, an active volunteer for the Children's Health Council; his daughters Marcia Black and Kathryn Ann Black, his sons Charles Booz Black and Gordon Alexander Black; and his five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held for Black at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 9, in the Stanford Faculty Club. The family prefers donations to the John D. Black Scholarship Fund at the Peninsula Kiwanis Foundation, or to Kara in Palo Alto.
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