W.H. Gaddes Scholarship

Excerpt from notes by Dr. Catherine Mateer at January 24, 2009

I first met Bill in 1977, which I realize now would have been the year of his retirement.  I was just starting a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington and was interviewing for a position.  It was not the right match at the time, and I did not come to UVic as a faculty member until nearly 20 years later, but I vividly recall Bill’s fervent hope that the faculty members in clinical psychology would be not only strong academicians but talented and dedicated clinicians committed to making a difference in the lives of children and adults, and in instilling a strong sense of commitment to clinical practice in the students.

Indeed, a strong commitment to children defined Bill’s life.  He received his BA in English and French, with a Minor in Psychology from UBC in 1939. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and then junior high school teacher working in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s in Kelowna and Chilliwack.  The war intervened, and between 1942 and 1945 he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Commissioned Navigator and then in the Medical Corps, where he first began training in Clinical Psychology.  He returned to UBC in 1946 majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education.

Immediately after that, in 1946, he became an Instructor at what was then Victoria Collage, where he began forming a Department of Psychology.  It was Bill who assembled all the major players in the department and built it up from scratch. During this same time, he completed his PhD in Psychology from Claremont College in California.

When the University of Victoria was commissioned in 1962, he was promoted to Professor of Psychology and served as Head of the Department for the first 5 years.  He continued to champion its growth and development, and when it came time to plan the Cornett Building, which was to house the Department of Psychology, Bill, together with the other faculty, insisted on building in a clinic space, a living laboratory which would provide students an opportunity to learn clinical skills, faculty an opportunity to undertake clinical research, and members of the community the opportunity to receive services.  He collaborated with neuropsychologists in Victoria and Vancouver and made arrangements for them to refer patients to the clinic. It was one of first major outreach programs of the university linking its activities with the greater community and it remains today a resource for students, faculty, and the community.  Bill provided pro bono clinical services in the Neuropsychology Laboratory, seeing nearly 150 children and their parents for diagnosis and consultation in a single year.

I believe that Bill would be proud that the Psychology Clinic continues to provide exceptional training opportunities for students, and for many years now has contracted to provide services to children through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.  Students gained real-life experience and children and adults in the community benefitted.  Indeed, Bill was an early proponent and practitioner of experiential learning and community engagement, both of which are values espoused in the university’s current Strategic Plan.   

Dr. Gaddes together with his colleague, Dr. Fouad Hamdi, also established a laboratory at the Royal Jubilee hospital which operated for many years and provided training opportunities for UVic graduate students.

At UVic Bill had also developed and served on the Faculty Council for the first Child Care Training Programme.  Indeed, what inspired and directed his academic, research, and clinical work was a passionate concern for children.  His love for children was palpable and his gentle, kind, and grandfatherly manner, present at even an early age, engaged children in return.  He was very aware of the struggles with learning that some children experienced and convinced that a study of the brain would increase out understanding of these difficulties. 

The study of learning disabilities, and the recognition that some children experience specific problems with aspects of learning was in its infancy.  Bill was one of the very first scientists to marry the study of learning disabilities with the neuropsychology, the emerging field that linked the study of brain function and human behaviour.  Indeed, Bill published a seminal paper in 1968, in the very first Volume of the Journal of Learning Disabilities, entitled “A neuropsychological approach to learning disorders.’  It was the beginning of a whole field of research linking child development, educational practices, and neuropsychology. 

In the tradition of neuropsychology, Bill developed an appreciation for psychometrics, or the study of cognitive skills and performance based on standardized test instruments.  He conducted early validation studies on tests of intelligence, spatial abilities, and language development.  Bill was also a pioneer in recognizing the importance of understanding and serving First Nations children.  He began a series of studies looking at the nature of spatial imagery and other cognitive skills in what he then called ‘Northwest Indian’ children. 

In the mid 60’s, Bill, together with Drs. Otfreid Spreen and Frank Spellacy, began hosting annual Neuropsychology Workshops, bringing together clinicians and researchers from around the world to Victoria.  At the same time, Bill’s reputation as a skilled and knowledgeable speaker in the area of learning disabilities and neuropsychology grew and he was widely sought out for lectures and workshops, throughout the island and BC, with visits to the Queen Charlottes, Prince Rupert, Prince George, and Fort St. John to talk about learning disorders, diagnosis and treatment in the late 60’s and early 70’s. 

Beginning in 1974, Bill undertook a concerted effort to understand best practices in working with children with learning disabilities.  He visited well known centres in Florida, Kentucky, New York, and New Hampshire.  He spent time with Dr. Helmer Mykelbust at the University of Chicago and the famous centres of neurological and neuropsychological research in Boston, where he spent time with Drs. Benson and Geshwind at the Boston VA aphasia unit, and with Dr. Eran Zaidel and Roger Sperry who were doing split brain research at the California Institute of Technology.  He also visited the emerging centres of neuropsychological research in Canada which were becoming known worldwide.  He spent time at the MNI with Dr. Brenda Milner, in Ottawa with Drs. Robert Knights and Ron Trites, and at the University of  Toronto with Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne. He also spent time at the Institute for Children with Learning Disabilities with Dr. Dirk Bakker, a founding member of the INS, in the Netherlands.  Bill’s own reputation grew internationally as well and in 1975 he was an invited speaker at the first NATO International Conference on the Neuropsychology of Learning Disorders held in Kosor, Denmark.

Bill became even more convinced that the University of Victoria should become a major centre of neuropsychological research and training.  Dr. Gaddes established the Neuropsychology Program at UVic at a time when this specialization was relatively unknown and most universities in North America didn’t have organized programs in neuropsychology.  He was also appointed Director of the Graduate Training Programme in Clinical Psychology.  The university made a commitment to bringing in strong faculty and building the program.  UVic has continued to be recognized for the outstanding research reputation of its faculty, and as one of the best placed to receive training in clinical neuropsychology. 

While Bill spent time with researchers and clinicians around the world, he always maintained a strong commitment to the local community and its children. He spoke to many local schools, societies and parent groups.  In 1975, Bill was also instrumental in founding the Cedar Lodge Residential Center, a residential program for children with brain injuries or disorders in Cobble Hill.  The Center provided exceptional care, treatment, and opportunities for social, emotional and vocational development for the children in a cozy, camp-like atmosphere in a beautiful natural environment.  The lodge supported 55 children with special needs and provided vocational training for 45 handicapped young adults.  One summer he worked with students to conduct research on methods for teaching children with dyslexia to read. Bill served as a consultant to the program for many years and helped to shape its mission and vision. 

Bill undertook a great deal of consultation with respect to special education and received phone calls and letters from many young teachers seeking help from various parts of the province.  With each, he took time to listen, understand, provide expert advice and support.  He made such a difference to so many professionals and as a result to the children with whom they worked.

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