Dr. Mike Arons Remembered

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dr. Myron “Mike” Arons, professor of psychology emeritus and founder of the University of West Georgia humanistic psychology program, passed away Feb. 18 in Carrollton.

Dr. Myron “Mike” Arons, professor of psychology emeritus and founder of the University of West Georgia humanistic psychology program, passed away Feb. 18 in Carrollton.The memorial service and gathering will be held at Kathy Cashen recital hall in the Humanities Building on the West Georgia Campus at 4:00 p.m. Friday, February 22. In lieu of flowers, the family requested contributions be made to the Mike Arons Humanistic Psychology Scholarship in care of the University of West Georgia Foundation, Inc.

Dr. Chris Aanstoos, UWG professor of psychology, noted once that if Reader’s Digest ever asked him for an article on “The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met,” his choice would be easy.

“I think everyone who knew Mike Arons well would choose him without a second thought,” he said.  “Mike was Socrates and Zorba, Apollo and Dionysus, an elf and a wizard.  He was ever ready to encounter life, to embrace alterity, replete with dialectical contradictories, available to every possible nuance.  Where others would meet with disaster, Mike’s openness disclosed unforeseen opportunity.”

After graduating from Wayne State University in 1961 with a degree in psychology, Arons completed his doctorate on the subject of creativity research at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. He then returned to the United States to work on post-graduate studies at Brandeis University under Dr. Abraham Maslow, who recommended him to West Georgia.

During his 32-year tenure as professor and chair of psychology at UWG, Arons was instrumental in recruiting students from all over the world to study at the university. He was renowned both nationally and internationally in his field for having a bold and unique approach to psychology. Credited with more than 250 scholarly works, Arons published and presented over 100 papers during his career.

Aanstoos noted the Arons contributed greatly to the discipline of psychology itself, nurturing a humanistic perspective through serving in leadership positions in such organizations as the Division of Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, the International Human Science Research Association and the Association for Qualitative Research in Psychology.

“Mike put the humanistic psychology program on the map in Georgia and made trips to Russia to help bring humanistic and transpersonal psychology to Russian psychologists and students,” noted Dr. Steven Hendlin, APA Fellow. “He was an interesting man who persued the truth and who knew how to listen.”

Ruth Richards, faculty member at Saybrook Institute, said, “Mike was huge in the lives of people he touched, a brilliant mind, subtle and complex, yet with a heart that was simple, giant, pure and open.”

Aanstoos also noted that “Mike was a singular teacher and it was his inspiration of generations of students that is his greatest accomplishment.  He had written of one of his own teachers that ’he spoke to a part of me I was yet to discover.’ Yes, that is what Mike practiced so skillfully as well. Dialectically, intuitively, whimsically, lyrically, magically, Mike called forth the best in his students, the best they had yet to discover in themselves.”

This is how former student Becky Phrydas described her learning experience with Arons.

“I had shaped the habits of my life according to what I thought others wanted from me. I had hammered myself into a mold, an object called wife-mother.  Mike Arons was the first human contact I made at West Georgia.  He had a frustratingly insidious way of opening you to the possibility that you are more than you thought you were, and responsible for the way you chose to perceive and handle the events around you.”

After retiring from UWG in 2000, Arons continued to contribute to the field of psychology and traveled to countries such as Italy, China, France, Russia and Japan.

Dr. Fred Richards, Carrollton psychologist and former colleague of Arons, summarized his feelings with these words: “I was stunned when I heard Mike was ill and perhaps dying because I evidently had made the assumption that, like a mythological figure, he would go on forever.  I grieve the passing of a man who was a mentor to so many, a gifted gadfly, a passionate freedom fighter, and a pioneering educator.  He was unique and no one is out there waiting to fill his shoes.”