During a sunny afternoon on April 20th, the Psychology Department celebrated the career and upcoming retirement of Professor Larry Ventis. A large crowd of friends and colleagues gathered in the Great Hall in the Wren Building to congratulate Professor Ventis and reminisce about his successful 47-year career at the College of William and Mary. The Botetourt Chamber Singers, known as the “Bots”, provided entertainment for the event.
Professor Ventis had an illustrious career as a Clinical Psychologist whose research has focused on the psychology of humor with a particular interest in the therapeutic application of humor in systematic desensitization for the treatment of phobias. Professor Ventis also found that humor has been used in counter-therapeutic ways to make people feel more comfortable with risk-taking behaviors. As an indication of the respect he receives in his field, he has been a member of the executive board of the International Society for Humor Studies for 6 years, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Workshop Library on World Humor for 13 years. He is currently the President for the International Society for Humor Studies. Professor Ventis has also maintained an active research interest in the psychology of religion, and he was a co-author of a widely used text on the topic. As one example of this interest, he developed the Christian Humanist Implicit Association Test, which assesses unconscious religious attitudes.
Students have always been the core focus of Professor Ventis’ career at the College of William and Mary. Through his active research program, he has been an important mentor to countless graduate students in the Psychology Department’s MA program as well as to doctoral students in the Virginia Consortium doctoral program. One particularly outstanding example of Professor Ventis’ dedication to mentoring is his 42 years of being a freshman advisor, starting in 1974. Truly, this is a clear demonstration of his enduring dedication and commitment to serving the students of the College.
Professor Ventis has a long history of steadfast commitment to service and was recognized for his dedication with the Arts & Sciences Governance award in 2015. Within the Psychology Department, he served as the Chair from 1999 to 2005. Under his leadership, the department became more scientifically- and research-based, an important culture shift that has continued to present times. He has been a member or Chair of the department’s Personnel Committee for a total of 20 years, attesting to the respect he garners in the department in this elected position. Professor Ventis also played a significant role in the development and operations of the 4-institution consortium doctoral program in Clinical Psychology in which the Psychology Department was an integral member for 35 years. At the College level, Professor Ventis has served on 19 different committees, often for multiple years and in the capacity as Chair.
Professor Ventis received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee. He completed his clinical internship at the Palo Alto, California Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. His first and only faculty position was at the College of William and Mary, where he was hired in 1969. His position was a joint appointment in the Counseling Center and the Psychology Department. He earned tenure in 1975 and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1985. He became a full time faculty member in the Psychology Department in 1987.
In sum, Professor Ventis has been a pillar in the Psychology Department. His dry sense of humor, vast administrative experience, and wisdom will be sorely missed by his colleagues. He has served the students and the College at a high level of distinction and honor for almost a half century; a truly remarkable and laudable accomplishment.