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Passing of Dr. Leslie H. Hicks, MA ’52 PhD ’54

Nov. 25, 2020
Category: Obituary

Leslie H. Hicks was born August 26, 1927, in Washington, DC, where he spent the majority of his career as Department Chair of Psychology at Howard University. He died on April 7, 2020, in Silver Spring, Maryland, at 92.
Dr. Hicks graduated from renowned Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School (1944) and served in the Philippines with the U.S. Army (1946-1947). He received the Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude from Howard University (1949). He earned the Master of Arts (1952) and doctoral degrees (1954) at University of Wisconsin under Harry Harlow, becoming one of the first African Americans to hold a PhD in Physiological-Comparative Psychology. A Kemper Knapp Fellow, he undertook seminal experimental work in Harlow’s lab, co-publishing with Harlow on discrimination learning theory. He joined Howard’s psychology faculty under the chairmanship of the notable James Bayton in 1954, later serving as Department Chair (1970-1999).
Dr. Hicks upheld high academic standards, promoted psychological science, and advanced African Americans in research. His signature wit attracted students to his lectures and inspired many in the study of psychology. He co-founded the PhD program in psychology (1968); during his tenure, Howard became the first HBCU with an APA-accredited Clinical Program (1987). The program has since graduated 375+ candidates, contributing to Howard’s record as a top producer of Black/African American PhDs. He continued mentoring after retirement in 2016, dedicating nearly 65 years of service as an educator.
Dr. Hicks contributed substantially to psychology and neuroscience, his focus neural correlates of behavior. He was Special Fellow in neurophysiology at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute (1959-1962); an exchange scientist to the former USSR (Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, 1963; Anokhin Institute of Normal Physiology, 1963; Moscow), and Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1978-1979). He published numerous research articles, oversaw many dissertations, and helped compile the history of Howard’s Psychology Department. He was an Administrative Officer for Scientific Affairs at the American Psychological Association (1968-70). He chaired the Eastern Psychological Association (1973), served on the Committees on Equality of Opportunity in Psychology (1963-1966, 1975-1977) and Ethics in Human Research (1971-1973) and on the Boards of Education and Training (1972-1975), Social and Ethical Responsibility in Psychology (1976-1978), and Publications and Communications (1981-1986). He received Division 45’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 (one of several lifetime achievement awards), an Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Wisconsin (2007), and the Howard University Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in Psychology and Education (2013). He was Member at Large at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1981-1985), also serving on committees to advance minorities in sciences. He was consultant to the NIH and other important organizations, a Fellow of the APA, APS, and AAAS, and a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the Psychonomic Society, Sigma Xi, and Phi Beta Kappa.
Dr. Leslie Hicks was an accomplished tennis player, jazz lover, and voracious reader; down-to-earth, yet a person of informed opinion who could hold one in thrall with analyses of politics, sports, literature, world events, etc. He was an invited member of Washington’s historic Cosmos Club. He is survived by his son, Steven Leslie Hicks, three grandchildren, two step-children, numerous extended family, colleagues, friends, and the students he inspired.

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