Dr. Michael Dougher was an Emeritus Professor of Psychology and former vice president for Research at The University of New Mexico where he started his academic career in 1980. Dougher spent 38 years at UNM as a professor of Psychology before retiring in 2016. His distinguished career went far beyond this title touching many colleagues including faculty and staff, as well as the students he taught over nearly four decades.
Dougher, 71, died Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, doing what he loved - winning at pickleball.
The first child of Joan (Beiss) and Raymond Dougher, Dougher was born on Nov. 15, 1950, in Dearborn, Mich. His family moved to Los Angeles, Calif. when he was five and he spent his formative years surfing, playing football, working at a hot dog stand, and getting kicked out of numerous Catholic schools.
Throughout the decades, Dougher made many significant contributions to the UNM community and the profession of psychology. Trained at the University of Illinois, Chicago as a clinical psychologist, Dougher's career exemplified the scientist-practitioner model of that discipline. He published widely on the analysis and treatment of such clinical problems as pain, depression, and addictive behavior. His research, however, extended far beyond the traditional boundaries of clinical psychology. He brought creative basic analyses of verbal behavior and stimulus equivalence to bear on the understanding of not only the origins of clinical syndromes, but also new possible lines of approaches to their treatment.
In addition to his role as a professor, Dougher served as the psychology department's director of clinical training and department chair, associate dean of research of the College of Arts and Sciences, and then as UNM’s vice president for research. He mentored 25 doctoral students and received numerous awards, including The University of New Mexico Teacher of the Year Award and the Don Hake Award, a prestigious research award from the American Psychological Association.
He also served as President of Association for Behavioral Analysis International (ABAI), which afforded him the opportunity to meet, mentor, and learn from colleagues around the world. He retired in 2016 but continued his significant academic editorial contributions.
His UNM administrative positions included:
- Department Chair, Psychology
- Acting Director, Center for Alcohol, Addictions and Substance Abuse
- Associate Dean for Research, College of Arts and Sciences
- Associate Vice President for Research
- Chief Research Officer, MIND Research Network (on leave from UNM)
- Senior Associate Provost
- Vice President for Research
- UNM Retiree Association’s Board of Directors
As a colleague and friend, Dougher’s personality and work traits exemplified the type of person he was at every level and to all he interacted with.
Steven Gangestad, distinguished professor emeritus, Psychology
"I met Mike Dougher when I arrived at UNM as an Assistant Professor in 1987. He was then Associate Professor. We soon became close friends and remained so for 34 years. Mike’s extraordinary talents led him to excel in all facets of his career. His exceptional teaching and research were recognized by awards in both domains. He passionately cared about the research and scholarship mission of the university and, in his various administrative roles, sought to better nurture faculty and student efforts to fulfill that mission. Even after his administrative duties at UNM largely pulled him out of his lab, he remained an engaged scholar, one enlisted as a headline speaker at scientific conferences, so well-recognized was he within his community for his clear-headed, big picture thinking.
"Notably, Mike was also an inspirational graduate advisor. Like other labs, he and his students met to discuss particulars of their ongoing work. But they and interested others also regularly met, typically at a bar/restaurant, as the Black Scorpions—so named based on the theme of a famous challenge the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead put to his Harvard colleague, psychologist B. F. Skinner—to discuss the philosophical foundations of psychology. Through the 1990s, I frequently hung out with the group. Never have I witnessed a collection of young scholars both so intellectually inspired and so socially bonded. They were having the time of their lives; after Mike’s passing, one contacted me to reminisce about those Golden Years.
— Read more thoughts from Distinguished Professor Emeritus Steven Gangestad.
Kevin Malloy, professor emeritus, Physics and Astronomy
“Mike was the kind of person that 10 minutes after you met him you wanted him to be your best friend and 10 minutes after that you were convinced he was your best friend. Most people enjoyed his company that much, and he was a welcome presence in any position, forum or committee. He was dedicated to UNM and made many parts of it better.
“People felt Mike deeply understood their issues and ultimately cared about their concerns. That’s not to say that he automatically agreed with them - one of his favorite stories was how he managed Office Hours for his extremely popular (Woodward Hall’s biggest lecture room) Intro to Psychology class - If a student came in during office hours to complain about a grade or assignment, Mike would listen patiently, then explain why he couldn’t make a change but then offered the student a large jar of candy, saying ‘while I can’t change your grade, I can let you have your choice from this jar.’ Invariably, the students would leave feeling at least partially mollified. Mike was named UNM’s Teacher of the Year in 1995.
“Mike brought these skills to the half of his UNM career he spent as an Academic Administrator. He developed a wide appreciation of the people at UNM and a deep understanding of how UNM operated, making him an extremely effective and popular administrator. One of his administrative innovations was to hold any meeting after 4 p.m. at Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro - a surprising number of successful UNM projects were developed there.
— Read more thoughts from Professor Emeritus Kevin Malloy.
Carlton Caves, professor emeritus, Physics and Astronomy
“Mike Dougher was a valued colleague and a good friend. I first worked closely with Mike when he and I served on the Research Study Group in the spring of 2007. The RSG’s charge was to study UNM’s research administration and to make recommendations for improvement. It was a wonderful group of people to work with--- Laura Crossey, Manuel García y Griego, Richard Howell, Kevin Malloy, and Mike, then A&S Associate Dean for Research—so wonderful, in fact, that it made you want to do University service. Key to all that was Mike, who had just the right combination of concern for and understanding of procedure and process, university politics, and most important of all, people, to make it all work. And none of us can forget that Mike’s keen, yet generous sense of humor enlivened even the most tedious discussion.
“Mike Dougher lived a good life: a good life for himself, a life lived with gusto and enthusiasm for his own interests and passions, but also a good life lived for others, for his friends and colleagues and those he served in leadership positions at UNM. That’s a rare combination of goodness, and we feel the loss keenly. We can, we should remember and celebrate the good, good life of Mike Dougher. In doing so, we acknowledge how much we have lost.”
Jane Slaughter, professor emeritus, History
"Mike was fiercely dedicated to the research mission at the University of New Mexico. He worked to improve research processes in the College of Arts and Sciences and worked with me to improve the research services for the Humanities, first within the College of Arts and Sciences, and then in throughout the university. I, the historian and Mike, the clinical psychologist, often talked about how each of our disciplines study the human condition, frailties, and complexities. When we were in the Provost’s Office together, Mike often reminded our more STEM-focused colleagues that the research and teaching of the Humanities at UNM was one of UNM’s greatest strengths. He was an ally as well as my long-time friend who always asked after my well-being, especially after I retired."
Melissa Bokovoy, professor, History
“When approached to address a problem, either as Senior Vice Provost or as Interim VP for Research, Mike always listened to the concerns of faculty, departments, and colleges and sought collaborative resolutions. I greatly admired his ability to emphasize and provide support when possible.”
Jane Ellen Smith, professor and former chair, Psychology
"Mike Dougher was such a unique individual. He was totally dedicated to the Psychology Department during his many years here, and to UNM more generally as he moved up through the ranks. He loved the challenge of helping his colleagues solve problems of all types – and he was good at it. I’ll remember Mike for his unparalleled sense of humor, his outstanding teaching skills, his ability to take command of a room regardless of the occasion or audience, and his encouragement and support of me throughout my career as a professor.”
Rich Wood, professor, Sociology
“Mike Dougher exemplified the binocular vision and complex thinking required for leadership in a research university. He clearly saw both the need for UNM to address emergent societal issues and improve its own internal culture in that regard and clearly understood that this must occur within a permanent commitment to academic excellence. As part of the 2010 faculty-led reform effort and later in organizational leadership roles, Mike worked to assure that UNM’s culture and internal processes embraced intellectual excellence and fostered cutting-edge research. More personally, while serious in his commitments, Mike was always easy with a joke to a friend, a supportive comment to a junior colleague, and a cocktail to just about anybody.”
Chaouki Abdallah, former colleague and executive vice president, Research, Georgia Tech University
“Mike Dougher lived life to its fullest. He was a passionate teacher and a skilled administrator. He made my life better by being a part of it and contributed to bettering UNM by caring about his students and colleagues more than he worried about his well-being. As the Senior Vice Provost and the Vice President for Research, he made the difficult decisions with compassion, and was a trusted adviser, but mostly a true friend. Mike improved any team he was on, whether it was in the academic leadership, in pickleball, or as a drinking companion. He took every job he had seriously but never took himself too seriously.”
Greg Heileman, former colleague and vice provost, University of Arizona
“It was always a pleasure to be in the presence of Mike Dougher—he had an inquisitive and joyful spirit that permeated everything he did. Because of this, his friendships were numerous, and I consider myself lucky to have experienced his camaraderie over the past few years. I will miss his impromptu lectures on the nature of human behavior that always made so much sense. Mike truly loved The University of New Mexico, indeed, he committed his life’s work to the institution, serving as a distinguished researcher and faculty member, accomplished administrator in numerous capacities, and most recently in the retiree association. Every time I saw him, even in retirement, he would discuss his ideas for helping to make the University a better place. Mike’s immensely positive influence on the students, faculty, and staff at The University of New Mexico is a fitting legacy for a friend who left us too soon.”
Manuel Garcia y Griego, associate professor, History
“I had occasion to work closely with him on two different committees associated with the Office of Vice President for Research. Mike Dougher understood that our service as faculty to the University was critically important to the health of the institution. He had a knack for getting quickly to the root of the matter and for articulating it in a matter-of-fact way. His approach often was to blend hard-headed realism with warmth and concern for the people and their work at the University.”
Dougher is survived by his wife, Kathy (Nolan), his daughter Megan (Mark) of Denver, his son Timothy (Ashley) of Denver, his wife's daughters Jennifer and Holly, his granddaughters Lily and Alice, grandsons Bruno and Albert, his grandson set to arrive in June 2022, his sister Joanne Bradshaw, and countless students and friends around the world. He is preceded in death by his mother, father, and brothers Patrick and Raymond.
Dougher lived a big life. He never missed an opportunity to travel with his wife, learn something new, encourage curiosity in his students, have a meaningful conversation with friends, connect with his kids, or tell his grandkids they were special. Besides his family and friends, skiing gave him the purest joy - especially skiing with his son. In retirement, he was a ski instructor at Santa Fe Mountain. His life was full, but not long enough for all the people who loved him so deeply.
In remembrance, the Dougher family asks for donations to the Roadrunner Food Bank (5840 Office Blvd NE Albuquerque, NM 87109).
Visit Legacy.com to view the obituary for Dr. Michael Dougher.