Magazine Feature / People

Paley leaves legacy of wit, research

Evelyn Paley was a woman who always had something to say, friends and family recalled April 1 at Evans Chapel.

Whether it was sharing research on children or marriages, or telling her granddaughter she looked better when the hair was swept back so she could see her face, Paley was never shy about expressing her opinions.

Paley, a professor emerita and founder of DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), died March 27 at the age of 87.

Although she retired in 1990 and was diagnosed with lung cancer a year later, she didn’t let anything slow her down, says her granddaughter Sarah Todd. Instead she dedicated time to volunteering at organizations like The Gathering Place, a drop-in center for women and children experiencing homelessness and poverty.

“Her body gave out long before her mind did,” Todd says, recalling that the two would spend hours talking and sharing stories.

Even through deteriorating health, she was still herself, her daughter Judy Paley adds. “She had a spark of humor and wit and was a keen observer of others,” she says.

Her observant nature was especially relevant for her training as a psychologist, having earned a master’s and doctoral degree in psychology from DU in 1963 and 1968, respectively. She was an assistant professor in the school of psychology before co-founding GSPP with Nelson Jones and Joe Dodds in 1976.

GSPP, which focused on preparing students for clinical practice, was the third program of its kind in the country. Paley was the first director of the school’s training clinic, which offered affordable psychotherapy in the Denver community.

“She is always mentioned by alumni as holding high standards for personal and professional development, encouraging critical thinking and competence,” says GSPP Associate Professor Shelly Smith-Acuna. “She was known for her no-nonsense approach and her dedication to mentorship.”

Paley’s research on subjects like single living, people in their middle-ages and the survival of cardiac surgery patients were frequently referenced in media and research groups during her career.

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