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.

"Mike had a rare presence. He commanded attention but exuded warmth. He evoked respect but invited intimacy. Mike had a well-earned reputation for bringing vigor and enthusiasm to all his pursuits. But as I see it, he more notably had an inspired aesthetic for life. He reveled in joyful simple pleasures—fresh powder on a ski day, a jazz phrasing that moved him, a well-crafted Manhattan. He easily laughed, and even more easily made others laugh. Mike’s unspoken aesthetic, however, was much grander. People can move with the world, against the world, or away from the world, and most of us are some combination of the three. Mike was all in with moving with the world, on his own authentic, principled terms. I didn’t work with Mike during his years as an administrator. But we frequently lunched together at the Frontier. Invariably, we’d run into both faculty and staff he knew. He’d greet them with a smile that said he was happy to see them, and he’d typically make a comment that acknowledged his connection to them—to which they’d respond in kind. Mike’s aesthetic was infectious. His own lifeforce enlivened that of others. Mike made big impacts on his field of study and UNM but, in ways both exceedingly rare among us and profound, Mike made our world a better place simply through his day-to-day presence, touching one life at a time.

"Mike never defined himself as an academic. He was engaged with life much more much broadly and ambitiously. He loved to travel the world with his wife, Kathy (who he adoringly told me is the kindest person he’d ever known). When growing up, his daughter Megan and son Tim were deeply involved in theater and soccer, respectively. Mike never missed one of their performances or games. They’re now adults and he spoke with them almost daily. He had friends across the globe. A natural athlete, he loved to ski. Two years ago, he and Tim took the ski adventure of a lifetime, through miles of unbroken powder in the French Alps. (Tim told me that the final challenge was climbing 50 flights of stairs in ski boots to get from the bottom back up to the resort base—which, at 69 years of age, Mike conquered with ease.) After retiring from UNM, he taught skiing at Ski Santa Fe, with hopes that he’d one day teach adaptive skiing.

"Many of my own most cherished memories of Mike involve ski outings too. A day skiing “with” someone is a misnomer. You ski on your own. The “with” part is the other half of the day: Riding chairlifts back up the mountain, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with your partner, the day punctuated by 6-12 minute conversations. With Mike, these conversations weren’t killing time; the lift rides were the most meaningful part of the day. Whether riding through falling snow or under bluebird skies, the occasion of being on the slopes, slowly gliding past frosted trees or in the midst of stunning alpine vistas, can evoke a warm sense of gratitude for goodness in life in the right person—and in this regard, Mike was the perfect companion. Mike was both tenaciously engaged with life and deeply reflective about it. He sought out and created a beautiful life, one filled with valued, loving relationships, for which he was then very grateful. Again, his aesthetic for life was infectious and I was but one beneficiary.

"I, like so many others both within the UNM community and outside of it, miss Mike terribly. But also, like so many others, I’ll forever be grateful for the many times he was my perfect shoulder-to-shoulder companion."