Psychology Professor Charles Merrifield retires after 31 years at Newman


Read through the curriculum vitae of Professor of Psychology Charles Merrifield, Ph.D. and a few patterns start to emerge.

From his doctoral dissertation to his many professional presentations to his service on committees and boards at Newman and throughout the community, it’s clear that Merrifield cares deeply about the issues of social justice, responsibility and authoritarianism.

Perhaps that’s why Merrifield, who will retire in May after 31 years with Newman, has built such a successful career.

“The sisters and the school and their focus on social justice and transforming society has been a good match for my interests,” Merrifield said. “It’s been a real joy working here.”

Cooperatives and contributions

Merrifield’s interest in social justice and other issues came early in life. From age 11, after both his parents died, Merrifield was raised by his grandfather on a dairy farm south of Enid, Okla. His grandfather served as president of an organization dedicated to supporting farmer cooperatives – a form of social justice – and an aunt was very involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

He became interested in psychology in high school, in part because he was drawn to politics and civil rights. Merrifield saw social psychology as a way to study how to change people’s attitudes on civil rights, and how people assign responsibility for their actions – either to themselves, or their environment.

Psychology Professor Charles Merrifield, Ph.D.

Psychology Professor Charles Merrifield, Ph.D.

Merrifield earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Oklahoma State University, a master’s degree in experimental psychology at Wichita State University and his doctorate in psychology at Oklahoma State. Through most of his college career, his goal was to teach.

“I like teaching for the freedom and independence, and working with students,” he said. “You can follow your own interests and set your own direction.”

Because he had studied in Wichita and had family members there, Merrifield applied for an opening with Newman and was hired as assistant professor of psychology in 1975. He left in 1981 to work as a stock broker, primarily for financial reasons, but returned in 1989, and has been at Newman ever since.

Over his career, Merrifield has made substantial contributions to the psychology program. When he returned in 1989, three students were majoring in psychology. He quickly brought the number up to about 20. Today about 40 students are psychology majors.

He has also worked closely with students over the years on research and other projects. To date, his students have made 86 presentations at various conferences.

Merrifield also created a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and a chapter of the psychology student interest group Psi Chi at Newman.

In 1990, he launched the counseling program at Newman, after learning from city agencies of a need for alcohol and drug addiction counselors. The program has since expanded to cover child and adolescent studies, and criminal justice.

‘I like working with people’

Merrifield, who will be granted emeritus status in May, said he plans to spend his retirement visiting his children and grandchildren in other states. He also expects to travel internationally for his own enjoyment, and do volunteer work.

He will also become even more involved in his church, and devote more time to another interest – tuba. Merrifield played the instrument from 6th through 12th grade, and took it up again four years ago to play in the Newman Pep Band and the annual Tuba Christmas event.

Still, he expects he will miss Newman.

“My colleagues have been really good to work with, and I’ll miss the various committees I’ve worked on. People complain about having to work on a committee, but I’ve always liked it. I like working with people.”

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