On His 100th Birthday, A Look Back at Dr. Bob Eason’s UNCG Legacy

Posted on May 13, 2024

Eason then and now

Dr. Robert (Bob) Eason, UNC Greensboro’s founding head of the esteemed doctoral program in psychology, celebrated his 100th birthday on May 15, 2024. 

Eason’s legacy at UNCG is long and impactful. Not only did he create the psychology PhD program — one of UNCG’s oldest doctoral programs — but he also helped oversee construction of the Eberhart Building, served as department head for many years, and led the way in recruiting faculty and students of diverse backgrounds – long before such terms as “diversity initiatives” were uttered, let alone practiced. 

“In my view, one of Bob’s greatest accomplishments was creating a doctoral program with faculty and graduate students who were diverse in color and gender,” said Dr. Rosemery Nelson Gray, a professor of psychology who worked with Eason for many years. “Bob did this not because of Affirmative Action or DEI, but because of his non-discriminatory judgments of academic potential.” 

Today, Eason resides at Friends Homes in Greensboro, where he continues to enjoy hearing about developments in the Psychology Department as well as the accomplishments of faculty and students with whom he worked.

To celebrate Bob Eason’s milestone birthday, we’re sharing snapshots of his legacy at UNCG: 

Bob Eason historical photo

1967: Bob Eason is hired by Mereb Mossman to serve as Head of the Psychology Department at UNCG.

He is also tasked with creating a doctoral program in psychology. 

Physio expert: Dr. Eason was a physiological psychologist whose research focused on neural correlates of attention, including the complex brain processes involved in reading and reading disabilities.

Bob Eason working on physio research with student
Bob Eason in chair historical photo

1969: The UNC System approves the doctoral program in psychology, a process led by Eason.

The Psychology PhD program is thriving today, having graduated more than 300 doctoral students who have gone on to successful careers in research, teaching, and clinical practice. Students can now choose to concentrate in one of four areas: Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental, and Social Psychology.

1977: The Life Sciences Building (now the Eberhart Building) is opened on campus, with great support and oversight by Eason. The Eberhart Building was designed to be a state-of-the-art facility for research, teaching, and clinical practicum. 

Housing all psychology faculty on one floor was important to Eason, to encourage the sharing of knowledge – a practice that continues today. 

Eberhart Building
Bob Eason fixing lighting device in Eberhart - black and white photo

Mr. Fix-It: Eason was not only known for his scholarship but also for his ability to fix anything in the new Eberhart Building. Dr. Rick Shull, a psychology emeritus faculty, recalls Eason’s construction work: “There were lots of evenings and weekends spent with our new and enthusiastic graduate students building lab equipment, soldering, sawing, pounding, cutting, and wiring. These work sessions often included spirited discussions and debates among faculty and students about fundamental issues in psychology.” 

Ahead of his time: During his tenure, Eason was committed to hiring and recruiting both women and people of color to the department, long before such practices were common.

One of the women he hired was Dr. Rosemery Nelson Gray, who reflects: “It was not in the spirit of the times, but Robert Eason hired three female faculty that same year [that I was hired], which was 1971. In the same decade, the UNCG Department of Psychology also welcomed a number of minority students, especially those from NC Central University.”

Bob Eason and Rosemary Nelson-Gray
Bob Eason headshot

1994: Eason retires after 27 years at UNCG.

2007: Eason’s former students organize a tribute celebration in his honor. A decade after his retirement, Eason was still sharing his knowledge with a group of faculty and students.

Eason was known for never being too busy to listen to a student, problem-solve with them, and make them feel welcome.

Eason speaking to a group of faculty and students
Eason in wheelchair with former faculty

2024: Eason celebrates his 100th Birthday on May 15.

Story by Elizabeth Keri, College of Arts & Sciences 
Courtesy photography and from UNCG University Archives

Psychology professor with student sitting in front of computer

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