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January 28, 2004
Dr. William C. Byham's gift funds endowed chair at Ohio University
By Jennifer Shutt Bowie

Co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI), Dr. William C. Byham is an expert on assessment in the field of Industrial/Organizational (I/O) psychology. A founder of the Assessment Center Method - which helps to predict how well people will do in future jobs by simulating future job experiences - Byham, BS '58 and MS '60, recently assessed the opportunity to make a difference at his alma mater. Through a generous $1 million gift to Ohio University's Bicentennial Campaign, he is ensuring excellence in teaching and research by establishing the Byham Chair in I/O psychology.

Ohio University enjoys a long and rich history in the field of I/O psychology. During much of the first half of the 20th century, the Journal of Applied Psychology, I/O's flagship periodical, was edited by then-Ohio University Department of Psychology Professor - and later Chair - James Porter. "Dr. Byham's gift promises that the long tradition of I/O at Ohio University will continue well into the future," says Dr. Jeffrey B. Vancouver, director of the organizational psychology program. "That is very exciting to the I/O faculty in the department."

Byham's book

Byham's parents, Edgar W. Byham and Brice I. Byham, are also Ohio University alumni. "I never considered going anywhere else," says Byham. "And I loved it! I've told many people, only half jokingly, that the reason I went on to graduate school is because I wasn't emotionally ready to leave Ohio University"

While an Ohio University undergraduate, Byham studied zoology. In his junior year, he found himself in a psychology course taught by Professor R. S. Uhrbrock, who had retired from a post at Procter & Gamble and come to Ohio University to teach. "I was in the first class Uhrbrock taught at Ohio University, and I hadn't heard of I/O until I took that class," says Byham. "I was always interested in the sciences and in business; I/O was the best of both worlds."

The Byham Chair will help Ohio University to recruit an outstanding scholar. The chair will conduct research in I/O psychology in the areas of selection, appraisal, training, organizational development or executive development and will teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students in this field.

"(Endowed chairs) give us the opportunity to recruit known experts who already have established careers and a proven record of scholarship, grant getting and teaching," says Ohio University Department of Psychology Chair Dr. Ben Ogles. "With the typical hiring process, we are looking for a promising young scholar who recently graduated. With the endowed chair, we hire someone who has been making important contributions for several years."

Endowed chairs, a top priority for Ohio University during the Bicentennial Campaign, recognize and reward outstanding faculty and help to ensure top-notch classroom instruction and research at the University. The endowment that supports the chair provides a stipend for the faculty member receiving the recognition and discretionary funds to support research, travel to conferences and symposia, professional development and other expenses related to scholarship.

"We are most appreciative of this generous and thoughtful gift from Dr. Byham, which will help current and future students receive the same high-quality education that he received while a student at Ohio University," says Ohio University President Robert Glidden. "The endowed chair will forever acknowledge Dr. Byham's contributions and dedication to the field of I/O psychology. Endowed faculty positions like this one attract exceptional talent to classrooms and laboratories... Their reputations and capabilities attract students who want to study in a special environment. They benefit the entire University community."

Byham also sees the potential the chair creates. "The endowed chair recognizes the wonderful contributions Ohio University has made to my life," he says. "My vision is that in 10 years the I/O program will be a larger part of the psychology department at Ohio University, that it will be taking in more Ph.D. students each year and will have more faculty. Each year the Society of I/O Psychologists ranks I/O programs. It's my hope that Ohio University's program will be among the top five."

"Dr. Byham is one of the most successful psychology department graduates ever," says Ogles. "We appreciate his loyalty for Ohio University and his dedication to the field of I/O psychology. His work in the field has been groundbreaking and his willingness to support the field through establishing this chair further exemplifies his commitment and love for I/O psychology."

Byham's career in I/O psychology has yielded more than 190 publications, including two books that have become standard texts for teaching the Assessment Center Method in colleges and universities.

"If you were hiring basketball players, you would put the individuals on the court to see how they played the game," Byham says. "It's easy to say what you will do in a given situation. It's something else to actually put people in a situation and watch how they perform. The breakthrough of the Assessment Center Method is the use of simulations. It has become a common methodology in I/O."

In addition, "Zapp!(R) The Lightening of Empowerment," co-authored by Byham, has sold more than 4.5 million copies since it was published in 1988. He writes and presents programs about ways companies can make meaningful decisions, improve leadership skills and work effectively in teams.

"Having an endowed chair allows for the continuous exposure of undergraduates and graduate students to the kind of scientific research that can translate basic research into application and benefit," says Vancouver. "More specifically, a named chair indicates to the greater community the potential for success that the field of I/O psychology promises."

Byham was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the college of arts and sciences in 2003, earned an Award for Achievement in Business from the college of business in 1994 and received the Medal of Merit from the Ohio University Alumni Association in 1984.

Byham and his wife, Carolyn, have two children: Tacy M. and Carter W. Byham.

The college of arts and sciences has 19 departments offering its more than 4,000 students a choice of 26 majors, 27 minors, five certificate programs and 57 career-related programs. Some 700 students are pursuing advanced degrees in the college's 20 master's and eight doctoral degree programs. To help meet the needs of students in an increasingly interconnected world, the college offers 38 education abroad programs in 28 countries. The college of arts and sciences remains as its founders intended in 1804: A place where futures begin.

The Bicentennial Campaign - which has raised more than $191 million toward its goal of raising $200 million to celebrate the university's bicentennial in 2004 - will provide money for scholarships, endowed chairs and named professorships, technological enhancements, innovative programs and selected capital improvements.

Jennifer Shutt Bowie is director of development communication for Ohio University

 

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