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November 10, 2016

Obituary: Diane Marsh

obit.Marsh,DianeDiane Marsh, psychology professor emerita at Pitt-Greensburg, died Oct. 16, 2016.

Campus President Sharon P. Smith called Marsh “a real builder of the school.”

In 2011, the year Marsh retired after 33 years on campus, Greensburg dedicated its psychology laboratory in her honor.

Marsh earned her BA in 1963 from the University of Michigan, where she was a competitive swimmer, followed by an MA from George Washington University in 1968 and her PhD from Pitt in 1977.

She received a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1986 and many other honors, including recognition from the American Psychological Association as well as national, state and county organizations focused on mental health and mental retardation, for which she served as consultant, advisory board and task force member.

She was the author of more than a dozen books and monographs, as well as numerous scholarly papers.

She was awarded the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service to the Greensburg campus in 2011, for which Smith cited “her lasting influence on countless students who speak of her with affection and appreciation for the role she has played in inspiring them to raise the bar on their own ambitions and to realize them.”

“This was somebody who was open to new ideas,” Smith recalled, including the institution of a new behavioral analyst assistant program on campus.

“She was a voice for fairness and justice and kindness” as an advocate for improving treatment of those with mental illness, Smith said. Marsh also demonstrated this on campus by mentoring colleagues in different psychology specialties, and through her teaching as well, Smith added.

Marsh, she said, was a wonderful friend whose death is “a real loss to Pitt.”

Lillian Beeson, a retired Greensburg faculty member in English, met Marsh in 1975, at the beginning of Beeson’s teaching career. They eventually had adjoining offices.

“Diane Marsh was good at everything she attempted to do,” Beeson recalled. “She was always a name on campus because she was so popular. Her classes were always filled to overflowing. Her door stood open to students — she was very accessible.

“Whatever Diane Marsh touched she added her intellect, talent and magic to it,” Beeson added.

She recalled seeking Marsh’s help when a family member was diagnosed with a mental illness and Beeson’s family did not know how to proceed. Marsh’s book, “Troubled Journey,” a guide to navigating the mental health system and advocating for patients in the family, proved a tremendous boon, Beeson said.
“She was not an ivory tower clinical psychologist; she was very much of this world,” Beeson said.

A highlight of every term for Beeson was the dinner and crafting session at Marsh’s house, she said, “for what she called the bead and feed.” Marsh was a gourmet cook and accomplished crafter, and Beeson and other Greensburg faculty members would make necklaces and earrings while they unwound. “It was the best session I ever experienced as a professional person,” Beeson said. “She was not just generous with her scholarship, she was generous with her home, her food and her friendship.”

Judith Vollmer, a UPG emerita English faculty member, joined these evenings and knew Marsh well.

“During the years of developing Greensburg’s four-year majors and working toward degree-granting status” for the programs, Vollmer said, “Diane led the way with her unflappable vigor and pragmatism. Diane inspired so many of us: We wanted to create the most engaging and rigorous undergraduate experience possible and she encouraged us to aim for that.”

Vollmer labeled Marsh a “trusted adviser … to four eras of campus presidents and deans,” an advocate for faculty of all levels and “a brilliant teacher, writer and national leader in mental health studies.

“She also wrote endless numbers of campus five-year plans and assessment documents, led key faculty searches and made it all look easy,” Vollmer added. “It amazed me, again and again, that after the thorniest divisional meeting or Senate session, when compromise (or even basic common sense) seemed unreachable, Diane could find a sane way through.

“Diane was our pilot light,” Vollmer concluded, “burning on something contagious and intangible: call it passion, or commitment, but the truth is, we had no greater champion or initiator or pathfinder.”

Marsh is survived by her husband, Rabe F. Marsh; son Christopher and daughter-in-law Bonnie; son Daniel and daughter-in-law Tracy; son Steve and daughter-in-law Lisa; granddaughters Corinna, Mia, Molly and Taylor; brothers Fred and Jerry Thimme; and sister Meredith Kuhn.

A memorial service will be held on Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. in the Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lecture Center on the Greensburg campus.

—Marty Levine 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 6

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