Reflections, after 36 Years


By Ricki Kantrowitz, Ph.D., and David Evans ’84

Just before Ricki Kantrowitz, Ph.D., professor of psychology, retired in May 2019, Lynn Shelley, Ph.D., the department chairperson, sent an email to psychology alumni, sharing the announcement. Over the next few days, Dr. Kantrowitz was surprised and pleased to receive a flurry of congratulatory emails, almost entirely from recent graduates.

Two weeks later, Dr. Kantrowitz received an email from a student she had taught 36 years before, during her first two years as a professor at Westfield State.

David Evans ’84 wrote to Dr. Kantrowitz, “You played an early, formative, and critical role in my academic career—more than you probably realize,” and Evans filled his professor in on what had happened to him over the ensuing years.

Evans reminded Dr. Kantrowitz that in addition to taking three courses with her, he had discussed his goal of getting into a clinical psychology Ph.D. program. “You kindly, but directly (and accurately) suggested that my chances were slim to none (given that I was graduating with a 2.23 GPA.) You didn’t kill my dreams. You simply handled the matter practically and told me that I had some work ahead of me. I never felt dismissed.”

After Evans graduated from Westfield State, he worked as a research assistant in a psychology lab at Yale University. In 1986, he contacted Dr. Kantrowitz asking her to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school at Tufts. In that letter, a copy of which she found in her office, she wrote about how personable and respectful he was and how much he participated, especially in her Women and Mental Health and Counseling Skills courses. She also noted, “I hope that you will not penalize David for the struggles of his college days. I do believe he has won his motivational battles.” That was the last time she had contact with Evans until last May.

Evans was accepted at Tufts University, earning his master’s degree in developmental psychology; later, he earned a doctorate in the same discipline from Boston University and completed a postdoctoral position at the Yale Child Study Center.

Now, Evans is a well-respected professor of psychology in the Program of Neuroscience at Bucknell University as well as a lifelong Fellow at the University of Cambridge in England. He studies genetics and brain structures in children with developmental disorders such as autism. He hopes to help develop treatments for children who have repetitive behaviors.

Evans says, “When I lecture and teach, I try to communicate clearly on a very real level. That clarity and genuineness is something I certainly experienced with Ricki, and it was very important for me.”

“Here’s a student who did not do well in college. He did not have motivation then, and look at what he’s accomplished,” Dr. Kantrowitz says. “It’s phenomenal. We should never lose hope. It’s a good lesson for all of us.”

During the initial email exchange, Evans and Dr. Kantrowitz discovered they would both be in England a few weeks later. They met, along with Ricki’s husband, Alex Cohen, in a pub in Cambridge last May.

“As we were about to reconnect with David in Cambridge, I suddenly realized that just as I had gotten older. David wasn’t in his 20s anymore,” Dr. Kantrowitz recalls. “I was meeting a professional colleague. Now, as a result of our recent visits, we have become friends.”

Indeed, last summer, the three met again in Newport, R.I., where Evans keeps his sailboat. While sailing around the harbor, they toasted to Dr. Kantrowitz’s retirement.

Dr. Kantrowitz and Evans would love to hear from alumni. She is at; Evans is


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