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Peter E. Nathan

April 18, 1935 May 8, 2016
Peter E. Nathan
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Obituary for Peter E. Nathan

Dr. Peter E. Nathan, researcher whose work showed the power of psychological interventions and past president of University of Iowa, dies at age 81

A Celebration of Life will be at 11 AM, Saturday, September 24th at the Levitt Center, 1 West Park Road, Iowa City. The time will be announced.

Dr. Peter E. Nathan, a pioneering researcher whose studies demonstrated the power of psychological interventions to treat alcoholism and other substance abuse, died on May 8 in Iowa City, Iowa, after a brief illness. He was 81.

At the time of his death, Dr. Nathan was the University of Iowa Foundation Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Public Health Emeritus. He earlier served as Iowa’s provost and acting president. He also helped found the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP) at Rutgers University and was director of the university’s Center of Alcohol Studies.

In 1999, he received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge “for his original contributions to psychological science, his ability to disseminate important psychological viewpoints in a wide variety of policy-making positions, and his successful administrative leadership in education and training,” according to the award citation.

Dr. Nathan’s research confirmed the effectiveness of psychological interventions to treat alcoholism and substance abuse. His findings spurred an explosion of research and influenced clinical applications in the field. He made seminal contributions to diagnostic decision-making, syndromal analysis and science-based treatments of psychopathology. He helped found the field of social and behavioral science of addiction.

His research was supported by millions of dollars in grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and other organizations. He received his first grant from the NIAAA, to study the experimental analysis of alcoholism, just a few years after earning his doctorate. He later was a member of NIAA’s prestigious Council of Researchers.

Dr. Nathan was one of the first psychologists invited to join the panel of psychiatrists developing the third edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association’s closely followed classification of mental health disorders. It was published in 1980. He also worked on DSM-IV, which was published in 1994.

Dr. Nathan authored or co-authored nearly 20 books, including “Abnormal Psychology,” “A Guide to Treatments that Work, 1 – 4th Edition” and “Treating Mental Disorders.” He also contributed hundreds of articles to scholarly journals. He served as the U.S. delegate in psychology for Oxford University Press, and was editor in chief of the 120-volume Oxford Library in Psychology and Oxford’s online psychology series.

He also played an instrumental role in the development of clinical psychology curriculum, frequently traveling to universities around the world to review their offerings and suggest enhancements.

Dr. Nathan was born on April 18, 1935, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Emil Jr. and Kathryn Kline Nathan, and later graduated from St. Louis Country Day School. He received his bachelor’s degree in social relations cum laude from Harvard College in 1957, and earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1962. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1958-62.

Following graduation, he worked as a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Boston City Hospital. In 1969, he accepted a job on the faculty at Rutgers, and later was named the Henry and Anna Starr Professor of Psychology. He was the only person to lead GSAPP’s PsyD and PhD programs simultaneously.

After two years at the MacArthur Foundation as a senior program officer in the health program, Dr. Nathan returned to academia in 1990 when he was named vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculties at the University of Iowa. He became provost in 1993 and served as president of the university in 1995.

In retirement, he enjoyed spending time at his vacation home on the Maine seacoast; traveling to family celebrations in the United States and Norway; and following his two favorite baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.

He leaves his wife, Anne Helene Skinstad; two sons, David and his wife, Susan, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and Mark and his wife, EunHee, of Amherst, New York; three daughters, Anne and her husband, Erik, of Vernon Hills, Illinois, Laura and her wife, Arlene Quinones, of Milford, Pennsylvania, and Siri Odegaard and her husband, Aaron, of New York City; 13 grandchildren, Abigail, Daniel, Jennifer, Dylan and Sarah Nathan, Kathleen, Emily and Zachary Nistad, Kyser Rodriguez, Javian, Izmari and Skyla Quinones Nathan, and Ingrid Simons; two brothers, Emil III and his wife, Nancy, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Thomas Weil, of St. Louis, Missouri; his sister, Suzan, and her husband, Duncan, of Chesterfield, Missouri; and three great grandchildren. He is also survived by his first wife, Florence. He was predeceased by his daughter Jennifer, son Jonathan and grandson Erik.

There will be a celebration of his life at a date to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory may be made to the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers; financial aid for students in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health c/o UI Foundation; financial aid for students at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City; or the Psychological and Brain Sciences Building Fund at the University of Iowa c/o UI Foundation, 1 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242.

A Memorial Service is planned for a later date with the time to be announced. A complete obituary will appear this week. Online condolences may be sent to the family at

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11:00 AM 9/24/2016 11:00:00 AM
The Levitt Center

One West Park Road
Iowa City, IA 52242

The Levitt Center
One West Park Road Iowa City 52242 IA
United States

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