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Notice about Larry Ventis

Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community April 17, 2020. - Ed.

Dear Campus Community,

I write to share the sad news that Larry Ventis, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, passed away on April 11th, 2020, due to complications from COVID-19. His first and only faculty position was at William & Mary, where he was hired in 1969 and retired in 2016. He earned tenure in 1975 and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 1985. Professor Ventis received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, and completed his clinical internship at the Palo Alto, California Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital.

Professor Ventis had an illustrious career as a Clinical Psychologist whose research focused on the psychology of humor with an emphasis on the therapeutic application of humor in the treatment of phobias. As a testament to the respect he garnered in his field, he was a member of the executive board of the International Society for Humor Studies for six years and also served as President of that society. He also was a member of the Board of Directors of the Workshop Library on World Humor for 13 years. Professor Ventis maintained an active research interest in the psychology of religion, and was a co-author of Religion and the Individual, a widely used text on the topic.

Through his active research program, Professor Ventis was an important mentor to countless graduate students in the Psychology department’s MA program as well as to doctoral students in the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology. One particularly outstanding example of Professor Ventis’s dedication to mentoring was his 42 years of being a freshman advisor! Truly, this is a clear demonstration of his enduring dedication and commitment to serving the students at William & Mary.

Professor Ventis had a long history of steadfast commitment to service and, as a tribute to his dedication, he was awarded the Arts & Sciences Governance award in 2015. Within the Psychology department, he was the Chair from 1999 to 2005. He also played a significant role in the development and operations of the four-institution Virginia Consortium Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.

Outside of academia, Professor Ventis was an avid tennis player and enjoyed downhill skiing. He was a devoted “Bots” (Botetourt Chamber Singers) fan and seldom missed an opportunity to hear them perform; they sang at his retirement party. A devoted and proud father, Professor Ventis spoke frequently of his daughter, Summer. His sense of humor, compassion for others, and kindness will be missed in the department and the community. Dave Douglas, Dean of the William & Mary Law School, was a personal friend of Professor Ventis. Dean Douglas noted that Larry was a gentle soul who loved choral music and sang in the choir for many years at the Williamsburg Unitarian Church. He remembers that Larry had a great sense of humor, though his humor came in a low-key manner. At one of the international humor conferences that Larry attended, he won the talent show performing a song that he wrote about the conference.
Information about a memorial service will be available from the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists Church. Notes of condolence may be addressed to Summer Ventis at her home: 3724 Gratia Ave., Sacramento, CA 95821.