Obituary: Loevinger, psychology professor emeritus, 89

Jane Loevinger Weissman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology in Arts & Sciences and one of the first in her field to study daily challenges faced by mothers and other women, died Friday, Jan. 4, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She was 89 and a St. Louis resident.

“Loevinger was best known for developing the Washington University Sentence Completion Test, which is a widely used measure of ego development,” said Randy Larsen, Ph.D., chair of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

Jane Loevinger Weissman

Her measure of character development has been used in hundreds of studies, and her work has been cited in several thousand research articles.

In 1991, she received the Henry A. Murray Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology for her distinguished contributions to the study of lives, and in 1993, she received the Distinguished Service to Measurement Award from the Educational Testing Service for her contributions to the field of psychometrics. She was the recipient of numerous additional honors and awards for her contributions to the study of personality, development and assessment.

Born in 1918 in St. Paul, Minn., the daughter of a German Jewish immigrant enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Told that psychology was “too mathematical” for a woman, she immersed herself in the statistics-heavy science of psychometrics, earning a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in psychology at age 19 and a master’s degree in psychometrics one year later.

Loevinger was then told she was not likely to find a job in her field because most available positions were with small, rural colleges that would not hire a woman or a Jew. Her chair suggested her best option was to marry a psychologist.

Undaunted, she pursued doctoral studies at the more liberal-minded University of California, Berkeley. There, she mixed intellectually with a circle of young scientists soon to be enlisted in atomic bomb research. She married chemist Samuel Weissman and moved with him to the top-secret Manhattan Project research facility at Los Alamos.

Loevinger subsequently taught at Stanford University and at Berkeley before moving to St. Louis when her husband took a position at WUSTL as a chemistry professor.

Loevinger started teaching as an instructor in statistics at the University in the mid-1940s. She was named research associate professor of medical psychology in 1961. She became professor of psychology in 1973 and the William R. Stuckenberg Professor of Human Values and Moral Development in 1985, just three years before transitioning to emeritus.

Loevinger’s husband, Sam Weissman, died in 2007. Her daughter, Judith Weissman, a professor of English at WUSTL and at Syracuse University, died in 1998. Her son, Michael Weissman, is a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A memorial service is planned for this summer at WUSTL. For information, contact the Department of Psychology at 935-6567.