A man of science & art

BY STACEY MURRAY | JULY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Rudolph Schulz, known mostly as Rudy, has a lot of legacies. The one you get depends on whom you ask.

Those in the psychology field might note his long list of accomplishments, both as a researcher and as an administrator. His family knew him as a scientist with incredible strength, compassion, and integrity. And if you could ask Rudy, he would naturally talk about psychology.

But there’s a good chance he would bring up Hancher Auditorium, too.

Schulz died on May 31 at the age of 84, after serving extensively as an academic, administrator, and professor at the University of Iowa.

His tastes extended to the arts, too. Schulz and his wife donated both their time and talents to the theater while living in Iowa City. It was such a large part of their lives, his wife’s memorial service was held in the theater just weeks before the flood of 2008 wreaked havoc in the city.

His wife, Charlotte, was a musical woman. She played the clarinet and piano and appeared in university club musicals. Both Rudy and Charlotte Schulz grew up in Chicago, where their love of arts started.

Schulz’s particular passion was for ballet and Broadway shows. When those programs began coming to Hancher, Rudy and Charlotte Schulz had the opportunity to see the art they loved without the hassles of traveling to Chicago or New York.

Those events, programs, and shows had such an effect on Schulz, his son says that’s what his father would want his legacy to be — a man who valued science and a man who loved Hancher.

• • •

Schulz first studied psychology at Northwestern University as an undergraduate. His Honors research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 1955. This began his long, illustrious career in psychology.

He then attended Stanford University and received a master’s degree before returning to Northwestern to earn a doctorate. He served as an assistant professor at what is now called Carnegie-Mellon University, then came to the UI in 1960 as an assistant professor.

Four years later, he was promoted to associate professor while also serving as the equivalent of an associate chairman. In this role, he led the design of the Spence Laboratories, which was completed in 1968.

The labs were funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation that was matched by the University of Iowa.

“The need for research space was so dire before Spence Labs,” Schulz said in a university publication after his retirement. “It is truly a wonder that the department could have achieved its outstanding reputation for leadership in psychological research with such archaic, abysmal facilities.”

In 1966, Schulz was named a professor, and he served as the head of the Psychology Department from 1970 to 1973.

Throughout his professional career, Schulz served on master and doctoral committees for more than 60 students.

“With students,” Schulz said in a story about his retirement done by the UI, “you have a kind of human interaction that is unique to higher education. It is an exchange of best efforts, and the job of interacting with bright and talented students is something our profession offers that no other profession can come close to.”

His love of teaching was obvious, and it was also rooted in his loving of learning.

“He thought it was important for everyone to be a student their entire lives,” his son, Kyle Schulz, said. “His students were everything. He has students he has influenced all over the country and the world. They were his greatest [professional] accomplishments — to find young people, to help them with their research, and to be able to help them become great psychologists.”

It wasn’t only students he affected.

“When he was chairman and I was a fledgling faculty member, he appointed me as head of the Honors Program for Psych. I served in that capacity for decades and went on to be director of Honors for the College of Liberal Arts and then for the entire university,” said Irwin Levin, a UI professor emeritus of psychology. “Along the way, I personally supervised more than 50 Honors thesis. None of that would have happened if Rudy hadn’t had faith in me and encouraged me. I’m forever grateful.”

His career continued to advance into the 1970s. Schulz and George Briggs founded the Memory and Cognition journal, and its first issue was printed in January 1973. The two had previously edited the Psychonomic Science journal together.

In 1976, Schulz his career changed directly slightly; he became the dean for Advanced Studies at the UI. He held that position for 15 years.

During this time, he led efforts to increase diversity in graduate programs. He, along with then-Vice President for Research D.C. Spriesterbach, helped establish a Center for International and Comparative Studies, as well as making the UI a member of the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities. Schulz also sought additional funds to allow more Iowa undergraduate students to study abroad.

“I would do it all again in just the same way,” Schulz said at the time of his retirement to a UI publication. “The university is an every-changing and exciting place because of the continually changing population of young people who are charting their futures. All through my deanship, I kept on teaching my part of the introductory psychology course on memory and condition; in 15 years, I never missed giving one of my lectures. That connection to students is something I will miss.”
Schulz didn’t want a funeral with eulogies — he hadn’t ever been a religious man.

“He was a scientist through and through,” Kyle Shulz. “[For him,] everything was based on science.”

Though his career proved to be successful, Schulz turned down numerous positions out of state because he wanted to raise his family in Iowa. He was content with the school system, and he “truly loved” the UI.

“That was his life, really,” Kyle Shulz said.

His students knew him as a dedicated and effective teacher. He was organized in a way not seen in the ages before the widely accessible Internet. An important part of one of his graduate courses, Ron Hopkins said, was the reading list, which had thousands of references to published articles organized into broad research topics by day.

Hopkins was a doctoral student who worked with Schulz early in his career. They remained friends, often visiting after parting professionally after Schulz graduated in the 1960s.

“Rudy was a master mentor,” Hopkins said. “He was able to extract the maximum effort from his students and to give words of praise at exactly the right time. In my years as his research assistant, I remember no demands but always extraordinarily high expectations.”

• • •

Construction on the new Hancher Auditorium began in June 2013 after the flood destroyed the building five years earlier. The $176 million project will be completed in the spring of 2016 with the first performances occurring later that fall. Performances for the opening season are already being booked.

It will be a highly anticipated opening. Hancher, prior to the flood of 2008, was a mainstay in the arts scene not only of Iowa City but the state.

In 2011, Rudy wrote in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, memorializing the auditorium. He noted some of his favorite memories but said they are “too numerous to chronicle in detail.”

He mentions a few musicals he saw, including Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. He references seeing his wife sing and dance on the stage and later, celebrating her life there.

Any analysis of his career will show this: He was leader in the field of psychology, a pioneer in Iowa’s department, and an avid supporter of Hancher Auditorium.

It’s quite the legacy to leave.

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