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In Memoriam: David Michael Kuhlman

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Campus community remembers psychology professor with international ties

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​David Michael “Mike” Kuhlman, professor emeritus of psychology and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, passed at his home in Newark on Sept. 13, 2021, after a long, courageous battle with lymphoma. He was 78.​

A member of the UD faculty from 1970 until his retirement in 2019, Dr. Kuhlman studied social interdependence, with special emphasis on the role of individual differences in social orientation and its relationship to social interaction and conflict resolution. A respected scholar in this country and abroad, he forged and nurtured close relations between the psychology departments at UD and the University of Warsaw in Poland. He is remembered by his colleagues and many students as a gifted speaker who was “inspired by ideas, warmth and humor.”

Several of Dr. Kuhlman’s colleagues shared their reflections about him.​

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​David Michael “Mike” Kuhlman

Janusz Grzelak, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Warsaw, posted this message on his department’s homepage: “It is with great sadness that we received the news of the death of Prof. D. Michael Kuhlman, a great friend of the Faculty of Psychology, a specialist in the field of social psychology and psychology of personality. As an employee of the University of Delaware, he visited Warsaw many times, where he collaborated with scientists and conducted classes for students. He was one of the most important figures in the creation of Psychological Studies in English (WISP) at our Faculty. He was a co-organizer and lecturer of summer schools in Poland. Over the years, he has supported us and helped in establishing contacts between employees of our universities, which resulted in mutual visits and cooperation. Thanks to his efforts, students of the Faculty of Psychology were able to go on research visits to the University of Delaware (USA). Today, most of these students are at least doctors. Mike — thank you! We'll miss you.”

Robert Simons, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences at UD, worked with Dr. Kuhlman for nearly 40 years. “He was a true colleague and friend,” Simons said. “Mike’s research interest involved social dilemmas --- situations in which self-interest is at odds with collective interests and how individual differences in personality, such as individualism, competitiveness and cooperation effect their resolution. Mike, of course, was a cooperator, and this characterized not only his work for our department but his family and friendships as well. His legacy is large and extends from his major contributions to the intricate workings of Psychological and Brain Sciences to his role in the establishment of a formal relationship between the University of Delaware and the University of Warsaw.”

Tania L. Roth, professor and chair of the department, said, “Every time I interacted with Mike, it was such a bright spot in my day. I remember the first day I was settling in my office as a new assistant professor, and Mike stopped by to welcome me and introduce himself and let me know he was here to support me. Mike was always so kind with his time, always interested in hearing what I was working on and sharing something to make me laugh. I greatly miss our hallway and mailroom conversations.”

“Dr. Kuhlman had an important impact on me as a person, and as a young professor,” said Ryan Beveridge, associate professor and director of the Center for Training, Evaluation and Community Collaboration. “I'll never forget the first time I met him. I walked past his office while he was standing at the door. He noticed me hurriedly walking by and with his dry sense of humor said, ‘Hello there, I'm kind of old fashioned. I still like to say hello to folks I don't know.’ This began a 13-year professional and personal relationship that profoundly shaped me, as he became a close friend and mentor. Mike built a special collaboration for the department, and for me personally, with the University of Warsaw in Poland. Through his work, faculty and graduate students have had the unique opportunity to visit Warsaw to teach, collaborate on research projects and share the mentorship of international students at both institutions. He also was a productive scholar. His work on social values and personality has shaped the field of social psychology, and the work of his many graduate students, whom he served as a warm and caring mentor to. We will all miss his wisdom, kindness, and truly wonderful sense of humor in Wolf Hall.”

Lisa Jaremka, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, said, “My fondest memories of Mike are during our weekly social area presentations. Mike always paid super close attention to every word the speakers had to say, and he always had a thought or comment about their talk to share with everyone. It was always fun to hear his thoughts on the talks!”

Beth Morling, professor of psychological and brain sciences, said, “Mike taught me that almost any social situation can be better understood by comparing it to a decomposed game.Mike also established the WarDel program, a collaborative agreement between the Universities of Warsaw and Delaware. Mike facilitated my own visit there in 2019 with my colleague, Missy Beers from Ohio State. Mike sent me regular emails to me during that week, cheering us on and offering restaurant and bar recommendations (all of which we tried!!)”

Philip Gable, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, said, “Mike was one of the most generous and genuine individuals you could hope to work with. He loved sharing what he had with others. As one recent example, he offered to permanently give his Tesla to a group of former colleagues he thought could use it. Although none of us needed it, it was an overwhelming gesture of giving on his part. I think one of the joys of his career was welcoming and supporting new faculty. He would go out of his way to make sure they were supported and welcomed. At the same time, Mike did not like the spotlight either personally or professionally. It would probably embarrass him terribly to hear what we're saying about him now.

Dr. Kuhlman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Missouri. He received his doctorate in major experimental social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

During his tenure at UD, he served as associate chairperson of the department form 1985-90 and acting chairperson in the fall of 1987. He also was vice president and president of the University Faculty Senate in 1984-85 and 1985-86, respectively.

In addition to several visits to University of Warsaw, he was a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Hokkaido in Sapporo, Japan and also had visiting appointments at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, the Science University of Tokyo Oshamanbe Campus in Hokkaido and the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in Serock, Poland.

A member of the International Society of Cross Cultural Psychology, Dr. Kuhlman was the author of numerous publications, invited talks and paper presentations.

He is survived by his sons, Andy and Jamie Kuhlman, his daughter Jessica Kuhlman Shook, four grandchildren, his brother Gary and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A private celebration of Dr. Kuhlman’s life will be held at a later date. Donations in his memory may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

To read his complete obituary, visit the R.T. Foard Funeral Home website, where condolences may be left online.​

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​ Article by UDaily staff; Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

Published October 04, 2021

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