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Psychology's Dr. Bill McDaniel retires

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April 28, 2010

All numbers have some significant meaning. Take the Number 33: It’s how many motion pictures Elvis Presley appeared in; the year in which Newsweek magazine first published; the age of Michelangelo when he began work on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling; and, according to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a hobbit’s coming-of-age.

Much closer to home, though, is that 33 also is the number of years that Dr. Bill McDaniel has taught psychology at Georgia College, as he prepares to say farewell.

In honor of Bill McDaniel’s retirement, Georgia College is establishing an endowed scholarship to support undergraduate student research. An anonymous donor has generously stepped forward with a challenge gift pledging to match the first $25,000 raised dollar for dollar. This challenge gift will be in effect until Sept. 1 and all pledges can be paid during a 12-month period. Take advantage of the opportunity to double your impact by visiting www.gcsu.edu/foundation/howto.htm

“He is the closest thing to a rock star to us around here,” said Dr. Lee Gillis, chair and professor of the Department of Psychology. Joining the Georgia College’s program in 1977, McDaniel has worked with thousands of talented students during that 33-year tenure. McDaniel’s students have participated in everything from animal husbandry to surgery to behavioral data collection, all the way up to the final analysis of tissue.

He makes sure his students are well-trained.

“These kids we have leaving are so gifted,” said McDaniel. “A good many of them have gotten full stipends—roughly $22,000 worth—to attend grad- uate school.”

Student collaboration on publications is something McDaniel says he is going to miss upon his June 30 retirement. To date, 52 of his 54 published papers were accomplished while working at Georgia College, and 41 included university students as coauthors. Likewise, 62    of his 63 professional paper presentations were com- pleted at the university with 47 of those coauthored by students.

“The most exciting times have been analyzing data with stu- dents, and at the end of the study, watching them get that ‘A-ha, I- did-it look.’”

Well before becoming a highly respected psychology professor, McDaniel entered Duke University on a swimming scholarship in 1969. Specializing in freestyle and butterfly, he won varsity letters during his freshman and sophomore years.

Psychology professor Dr. Bill McDaniel has decided to leave the classroom after 33 years at Georgia College.Psychology professor Dr. Bill McDaniel has decided to leave the classroom after 33 years at Georgia College.

Academically, he swam from biomedical engineering to psychology.

“I fell in love with biological psychology,” McDaniel said, and obtained a master’s degree from Appalachian State University before earning his doctorate from the University of Georgia, where he fell “in love with a lady named Sheryl. We just celebrated our 35th marriage anniversary.”

Less than a week after defending his doctorial dissertation, he was teaching at Georgia College.

Dr. John F. Lindsay, former student and current Georgia College faculty member, had been out of school for 10 years when he entered one of McDaniel’s courses in 1980.

“I took his physiological psychology class that happened to be a combined undergraduate/graduate class,” Lindsay said. “The graduate students were required to present part of a chapter. After my presentation, he told me I should think about becoming a pro- fessor since I could explain complex topics in a way students could understand. That suggestion changed my life. Since then, we’ve worked together for 27 years.”

“I’ve known McDaniel since 1986, and he is one of the friendliest people I have met,” Gillis said. “Little did I ever know, he was also one of the foremost researchers on rat brains in the United States. As evidenced by the number of times he has won our Excellence in Research/Publication Award, he is a research machine.”

Research aside, McDaniel intends to continue in private practice as a clinical neuropsychologist, which he started back in 2001.

With 33 years of Georgia College memories behind him, McDaniel said, “The next 33-plus years will be filled with nothing but hobbies. Of course, that may include kayaking and occasion- ally swimming when I flip over.”

ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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