The Founding and Early History of the Rhode Island Psychological Association (1953-1969)
by Harold R. Musiker And Peter F. Merenda
In 1953, Harold Musiker was a psychologist in the outpatient department of the Veterans Administration Mental Health Clinic in the old Hope High School building in Providence. At that time there were only three Ph.D. clinical psychologists in Rhode Island. Besides Harold, there was Eli Rubin at the Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital in Riverside, and Powell Lawton at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Providence. There were many others employed as clinical psychologists in state agencies and private clinics, but all were either at a bachelor's level (most) or at a master's level. During that early period Harold often attended the weekly seminar in the psychology department at Brown University, and became acquainted with many of the Brown psychology faculty. He became aware of the desire to speak as one voice for psychology growing out of a controversy in the public press at that time about claims being made by Herbert Miles Jenkins (Ph.D. Harvard, 1952). Dr. Jenkins, a staff psychologist at the MIT Lincoln Laboratories in Cambridge was writing and talking about the alleged limited capacity of blacks and other minorities compared to IQ's of whites. A number of PhD- level psychologists in Rhode Island, including members of the Brown faculty felt that a public rejoinder to the claims be Jenkins was in order. Three Rhode Island psychologists, Harold Musiker, Carl Pfaffman (Brown), and Kennison Bosquet, Msc, Director, Providence Child Guidance Clinic wrote a letter to the editor, Providence Journal to rebut Jenkins' claims. It was also at that time (1954), but before mailing the signed letter to the Journal that RIPA was formed with Harold as President, and incorporated and filed with the Secretary of State in Rhode Island.
In 1956, Harold left the V.A. in Providence to become the Clinical Associate at Walter V. Clarke Associates, Inc. (WVCAI) on Waterman Street in Providence. In early 1957, John Bennett, Jr. joined Harold as clinical associates at WVCAI. And together, Harold and John recruited Peter Merenda in Wisconsin to become the Research Director of WVCAI, and he joined the staff in that psychological consulting firm in August 1957. Peter attended his first RIPA meeting in the fall of that year; Carl Pfaffman was president of RIPA, and Carl was also a drilling naval reserve officer (CDR, USNR) with Peter in the Brown Panel of the Naval Reserve Research Company in Rhode Island.
At the spring meeting of RIPA in 1958, Harold, John, and Peter were sitting together alongside Anthony Davids of Bradley Hospital and Brown. The slate of the 1958-59 officers was submitted by the nominating committee. All three nominees were non-doctorates. For Rhode Island at the time, this perhaps was not unusual. But, for Peter who had only recently come from the mid-west and had been a member of the Wisconsin Psychological Association, he found it rather strange. He arose and asked the question of why there were no Ph.D.s on the slate. The chair of the nominating committee responded by saying that doctorate-level psychologists were called by telephone, but none chose to be a candidate. Peter then turned to Harold, John and Tony and asked each one if he had been called. They all responded to the negative. The slate went forth to be approved by the members present. But the upshot of that incident was that the incoming President appointed Peter chair of the Membership Committee which also served as the Nominating Committee. In the next years slate Dr. Davids was nominated as president. And since then, all presidents of RIPA have been doctoral-level psychologists.
Also, in 1958-59, John Bennett, a member of the RIPA Legislative Committee on which Trygg Engen was Chairman, urged Peter to join the Committee. Other members of the committee were Marji Ehmer (URI) and Harold Musiker. The pace of progress in preparing a draft of a bill legislating psychology and its practice in RI was slow and going nowhere. One reason was that Harold Schlosberg, Chairman of the Brown Department of Psychology was opposed to the legislation. And Trygg who was a consultant on Taste to the Campbell's Soup Company in Trenton, NJ was apprehensive that such a law would negatively affect his consultanship. Peter joined the committee as a member. But, the next year when Tony Davids was president of RIPA, he appointed Peter to the chair. Hence, progress proceeded throughout the early 1960's. The committee met regularly at Peter's home in Warwick. It obtained copies of the psychology bills that had already been enacted in about a dozen and one half states; Connecticut was the first. (APA had not yet written its Model Act Bill). But, the committee maintained regular contract with Jane Hildreth, APA's staff member in Washington charged with providing States with current information regarding legislative matters. Peter was the principal author of the first drafts of the Bill to be introduced in the RI Legislature. The Bill was first introduced in the RI legislature in the 1964-65 session. However, soon after introduction, Harold Williams, MD, Chief of Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, acting on behalf of the psychiatrists in the Rhode Island Medical Association telephoned the leaders in the legislature and objected to the passage of the Bill. The progress toward passage came to a halt.
The failure of this first attempt prompted RIPA to organize a joint Psychologist-Psychiatrist Committee to review the intent of the Bill; namely the 'Protection of the Public", role of both professions in mental health in providing this protection, and the lack of interference with the RI Medical Practice Act that would or could ensue with the passage of the Bill. So, by 1966, a second Bill was ready to be introduced. Peter contacted Senator Eleanor Slater, explained the purpose and need of such legislation in RI, and requested that she become the leading sponsor of the Bill. Eleanor agreed. Peter had chosen Senator Slater because a few years before on behalf of the Warwick Community Mental Health Clinic, she was a co-sponsor of a bill, the Chafee-Slater Bill, that had become the first Mental Health Act in Rhode Island. (Peter later received from John Chafee who by then was Governor of RI, the first matching funds check awarded to community clinics. At the time Peter was President of the Board of Directors of the Warwick clinic in 1963-65. However, the Bill was also to fail. This time the objection came not from the psychiatrists, but from within RIPA. The non doctoral-level psychologists-mainly state employees-called Eleanor and objected to its introduction and passage. They were fearful that the Bill would affect their employment status as psychologists in the state agencies. That is what they told Eleanor. But, this was not true because the Bill contained an exclusionary clause that exempted them and protected their positions. The real reason was they wanted to keep their private practices going. Eleanor called Peter and told him that she no longer could support the Bill since "RIPA could not keep its house together."
That brings us to 1967 when Peter received his first of two Fulbright-Hays Senior Research Scholar Awards to Italy and would be absent from RI for a full year. Lawrence Grebstein (URI) took over the chair of the Legislative Committee and guided the third attempt in 1967-1969. The Bill H 1895 was introduced in the House of Representatives in the spring of 1969 in the January Session, 1969, by Representatives Capineri, Manning, and Chaharyn and was referred to the House Committee Judiciary. The Bill H 1895 was passed by both the House and Senate and took effect on July 1, 1969. While this time there was no objection to its introduction neither was the passage of the Bill a smooth one. The Bill was first introduced in the House by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and it was passed by the full house. But, as the session was coming to an end in April 1969, the Bill had not yet reached the floor of the Senate for a vote. On the last night of the session, Harold was called up to the Senate, along with William McGurk, a fellow clinical psychologist with him at the Department of Psychology in the Rhode Island Hospital to witness its passage with about 20 other bills.
When the first Board of Examiners in Psychology was to be established, RIPA submitted three names; Harold Musiker, William McGurk, and Peter Merenda. But, the newly elected Governor Frank Licht substituted Lester Carr (URI/Salve Regina for Peter). Les had campaigned actively for Licht's election. (It was not until 1978 that Peter joined Harold and Bill on the Board along with Sylvia Mahrer- the Board had been increased to 5 psychologists). The three-person Board was sworn-in in the spring of 1969 in the office of Joseph Cannon, MD, and the RI Medical Director. The Psychology Law became effective on July 1, 1969, at which time the certification of psychologists officially began in Rhode Island. The certification/ licensing numbers 1,2,3 were given to Harold, Bill, and Les respectively. Although the first Bill was written and passed as an "on/or" bill following the instructions and advice of Jane Hildreth at APA, for the first several years, it functioned as a certification bill, "on/or" signifies the protection of the title (on) and the protection of the practice (or). It was not until a decade later when the Bill was revised and was passed that the law officially and legally licensed psychologists. Peter was also a member of the committee that drafted that Bill and became a coauthor of that law as well.
Appendix Members of RIPA (1953-1959)
Donald Blough, Ph.D. Russell Church, Ph.D. Frances Clayton, Ph.D. Anthony Davids, Ph.D. Frances Dunn, Ed.D. Trygg Engen, Ph.D. Jake Kling, Ph.D. Nissim Levy, Ph.D. Lewis Lipsitt, Ph.D. Carl Pfaffman, Ph.D. Rosemary Pirrel, Ph.D. Lorin Riggs, Ph.D. Judy Rosenblith, Ph.D. Harold Schlosberg, Ph.D. Allen Schreier, Ph.D. Walter Stanley, Ph.D.
E.Kenneth Carpenter, Ph.D.
Marji Ehmer, Ph.D. Raymond Kenney, Ph.D. Russell Smart, Ph.D.
URI-Providence/Providence Hollis Farnum, Ph.D Robert Amos, Ph.D. John Bennett, Ph.D. Kenneth Bosquet Walter Clarke Anna Cowan Frank Deignan, Ed.D. Spencer DeVault, Ph.D.
Charles Devine Ruth Fitzsimmons James Herrick Raymond Holden, Ed.D. Seymour Kreiger Margaret Lang Peter Merenda, Ph.D. Harold Musiker, Ph.D. Elizabeth Parmalee Herbert Reusch Ellen Rollins, Ed.D Santo Salvatore, Ph.D. Helena Shea Morton Silverman Hope Solomons Madeleine Sullivan Eugene Sullivan Max Talmage, Ph.D. Alan Taylor Larry Whisler Alan Willoughby, Ph.D. Richard York, Ph.D.