Derek Price, professor emeritus of psychology, dies at age 74

Derek Price, professor emeritus of psychology at Wheaton, died on April 9 at the age of 74.

Professor Price was a Vietnam veteran who achieved a thriving career in academia.

He served on Wheaton’s faculty from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He was an expert in developmental psychology, with a focus on the mental development of children during the preschool years. His educational philosophy was that good research on human behavior must accommodate cultural differences, and that good science thrives on a collaborative spirit.

Derek was strongly dedicated to supporting child development and education at the STAR School on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He formed connections that enabled Wheaton students to gain field-based experience and participate in service learning in the Navajo Nation.

“It is rare to come across individuals who have so much intellectual integrity and at the same time have the heart and compassion to want to help improve the state of Native American education. Derek has proven himself to be one of those individuals. … His willingness to expose Wheaton students and faculty to life ‘on the rez’ has enriched their lives and expanded the deeper understanding of Navajo values by mainstream culture,” STAR School CEO Mark Sorensen stated in prepared remarks for Price’s retirement celebration.

As a faculty member, he was an active contributor, volunteering on both the presidential and provost search committees, chairing the tenure committee and serving as the coordinator of the Infusion Program. He was awarded the Dorothy Reed Williams Chair in Social Sciences in 1997. 

Bianca Murphy, professor of psychology, said she shared these words with him prior to his passing: “You advocated for others—for your untenured colleagues in the department and especially for people of color. So many knew that they could turn to you and trust you to provide advice and support. You were a wise elder for our tribe. Your colleagues universally respected you.”

Professor Price, originally from Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He later earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in cognitive and developmental psychology from the University of Denver. Prior to joining the Wheaton faculty, he was an instructor and assistant professor of philosophy at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.