Passing of Barbara Byrne, Professor Emeritus of our School

Posted on Monday, January 11, 2021

It is with great sadness that I share the news that Barbara Byrne, a professor emeritus of our School, passed away December 19th 2020. We would like to express our deepest condolences to her friends and family. Please read Barbara’s obituary as well as a tribute written by our colleague Richard Clément below. 

“It is with great sadness that Barb’s colleagues from the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa learned of her passing away. Our deepest condolences go to Alex, her children, and everyone who was close to her.

Barb had an amazing career as is described in the extensive obituary notice. Starting off as a secondary school teacher, she concurrently pursued graduate studies, earning a PhD from the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa in 1982. She then explored new advances in statistical analysis and psychometrics which later became known as structural equation analysis (SEM). This approach could have remained a highly specialized instrument but, instead, became a sophisticated go-to tool for many applications in psychology, education, and other disciplines. Barb was at the forefront of this wave. Through an impressive number of workshops, invited presentations, keynote addresses, and journal articles, she illustrated, explained, and guided scholars through the intricacies of SEM. As new software became available, her books jockeyed the readers through their usage. They simply were a must for anyone delving in these issues.

Barb was internationally known, travelling the world and earning Fellow nominations in divisions 5 (Measurements, Statistics, Evaluation) and 52 (International Psychology) of the American Psychological Association as well as Honorary Fellow of the International Test Commission. She was promoted to full professor in 1994 and retired in 1997. In 1999, the University of Ottawa awarded her the title of Professor Emeritus even though the steadfast rule required 10 years as full professor. For a time thereafter, unable to part with her, we flew her in from Florida to continue teaching for us.

As a teacher, Barb was highly regarded by her colleagues and loved by her students. The teaching of quantitative methodology, and particularly multivariate statistics at the graduate level, rarely if ever, wins high ratings for the instructor. Barb had been a high school teacher and that might explain her skills at imparting a subject, which students would not have expected to be a part of psychology. She understood learning, but more so, she showed compassion and generosity toward those who were struggling. Graduate students dreading the class presentations came to look forward to them and incorporated their acquired knowledge in subsequent research. Barb’s generosity extended to welcoming a number of us as auditors in her seminars. Her achievements and reputation as a teacher were recognized in 1994 with the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Canadian Psychological Association.

Thank you, Barb. You will be dearly missed. May you still help us keep our matrices positive definite.”

Richard Clément, Professor Emeritus, on behalf of the School of Psychology

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