The Legacy of Calvin D. Catterall, PhD

Born: April 30, 1925;      Died: July 3, 1984

  • Found support for and inaugurated the International School Psychology Committee to expand communication among psychologists worldwide
  • Distinguished internationally as an educational tour guide for school psychologists
  • President of the National Association of School Psychologists
  • President of the California Association of School Psychologists

In 1984 ISPA lost its founder. It was his inspiration, determination and leadership that brought about the successful global communication among school psychologists that we enjoy today. His legacy lives on through each member of ISPA!

Here is his story:

Calvin Dennis Catterall was the fifth child of the Rev. and Mrs. Henry James Catterall. His birthplace was Mt. Shasta, California, where his father was a Methodist minister. But little did Cal know that he was destined to give of himself to a then obscure profession and, furthermore, to add an international dimension to it. His two older brothers and two older sisters were role models for him. Cal worked as a butcher in a meat market for two years during high school to help ends meet at home and after graduation attended the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. One year later he was drafted into the 460th Air Force Squadron and went off to fight in World War II as a tail gunner in a B- 17. He began to see the world and returned two years later after 35 missions over Germany with a bullet hole in his leather flight jacket, an Air Medal, five Oak Leaf Clusters for bravery in the line of duty, and with a whole lot more maturity.

Cal, then, resumed his undergraduate studies at the College of the Pacific. However, his father’s sudden death of a heart attack changed the course of his life. Cal continued his college studies, but he also felt a desire to take over his father’s ministerial duties until a permanent minister could be appointed. He was granted certification as a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, which allowed him to preach in his father’s two small churches in northern California and attend college at the same time. One year later, Cal graduated with a BA degree and enrolled in the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from which he was granted an MA degree in Psychology in 1949. He was 24 years old.

While enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, he met Gretchen Bruner who, in 1950, became his wife. Gretchen taught school while Cal continued graduate studies. The birth of their first child made it necessary for Cal to curtail his Ph.D. program and he signed his first teaching contract for $ 500 per month. Subsequently, two more children were born and 14 years later he finished his doctorate. During these years he was a school psychologist for several school districts and eventually became Director of Special Services for the Santa Clara School System. The now Dr. Catterall had been an active member of the California Association of School Psychologists (CASP) and was elected President in 1960. In 1971 Dr. Catterall took a position at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio as a Professor of Psychology working with graduate students. He held this position for two years before starting his own consulting firm. As a consultant, he traveled in Canada and most of the eastern states of the USA giving inservice training to psychologists and special education personnel. As a result of this successful career move, his leadership talents were becoming nationally known, and in 1972 he became president of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Dr. Catterall also planned and led educational group travels overseas in the name of school psychology. Coincidentally, Dr. Frances Mullen, President of the School Psychology Division 16 of the American Psychological Association (APA), was doing exactly the same thing. From these experiences they both saw the desperate need and a hunger for communication across cultures in the professional area of school psychology. The two began to work together to form the International School Psychology Commit-tee (ISPC), sponsored by APA and NASP. They were m – chairs for several years until Dr. Mullen’ s heavy professional duties necessitated her resignation. Over the many years that followed, Dr. Catterall worked with people from all over the world to build ISPC into a viable entity. He saw it grow and evolve into the International School Psychology Association (ISPA) and was to become its first Executive Secretary, but illness prevented him from assuming that leadership position. In 1980 tragedy struck. Dr. Catterall contracted bacterial meningitis, almost died, and throughout his recovery period it was determined by family, friends, and professionals that Dr. Catterall’s mind and memory had been effected seriously by the illness. In the ensuing four years his mind seemed confused and sometimes incoherent. One late night during ISPA’s 1984 Colloquium in Orleans, France, he was killed by a speeding train. Was he lost, not knowing how to get to his hotel? Was he confused with directions? No one really knows. But what is known is that ISPA lost its shaker and its mover, a man who was a visionary and dedicated his life to the promotion of professional communication among school psychologists the world over.

Yes, his legacy lives on.

Robert D. Clark, Ph.D.,  Executive Secretary 2007  to  2011