March 28, 2017 at 2:33 pm

University Mourns Psychology Professor Emeritus Harry Kotses

Emeritus Professor Harry Kotses, husband of Kandee S. Grossman, died at his home in Sanibel, FL, on March 7, 2017, at the age of 78 with Kandee at his side. Family, friends, colleagues, and students will remember him for the multiple roles he embraced during a life of purpose – as husband, father, grandfather, teacher, professor, mentor and scholar – lived with authenticity, clarity, compassion and encouragement, humility and humor, patience, reflection, and sensitivity.

Harry Kotses

Harry Kotses

Harry was born on September 29, 1938, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, to Pete (Pantelis) and Stamtia (nee Tsarnas) Kotses, the first in his family to be born in the United States. As was common at the time, his father came to the United States ahead of other family members, arriving in 1924; his mother and younger sister Grace were not able to join Pete until the spring of 1937. Harry’s older sister, Stamatoula, stayed behind in Greece and ultimately married Gregory Pasvanis. Harry did not meet Stamatoula and Gregory until he traveled to Greece for the first time in 1983. During his two visits to Ikaria, Harry fondly recalled being referred to as “the child,” eating freshly picked figs from the backyard each morning with his older sister, and touring the island’s beaches with Gregory.

Harry’s family moved to Warren, Ohio, when he was 4. At that time, two of Stamtia’s brothers lived in the same household. One brother, Gus, nurtured Harry’s belief in the value of learning, which was validated throughout his subsequent academic career. Gus had less than an eighth-grade education, but was a voracious reader, and Harry recalled waking him in the early morning for chemistry, history and physics lessons. In 1950, the family moved to Bethlehem, PA, to join his sister Grace, who by then had married Gust C. Zarnas. Gust had played for the Ohio State University football team and was recognized as an All-American in 1937; he shaped Harry’s life-long enthusiasm for Ohio State football.

Harry graduated from Liberty High School, Bethlehem, in 1956, and then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at Lehigh University in 1960. The effect of his studies with faculty at Lehigh on his early research interests is apparent – they were intimately familiar with the original classical conditioning studies conducted by the great Russian physiologists, including Pavlov. Harry subsequently completed a Master of Arts degree at Temple University, in 1964, and then spent two years working at the Human Resources Research Office (HumRRO) at Fort Benning, GA. He earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1969 from Michigan State University under the guidance of David C. Raskin, and then spent a year as Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis under the supervision of John A. Stern. Harry remembered watching the clock closely one day that year, to view the first manned mission to land on the moon in July 1969, an event that carried particular significance for him.

In 1970, Harry began his distinguished career at Ohio University in Athens, moving through the ranks of Assistant Professor to Professor to Emeritus Professor, in 1998. His research interests included asthma self-management, human psychophysiology, classical and operant conditioning of physiological responses, and biofeedback. Harry was methodical and meticulous in his research activities; he was equally committed to the protection of human subjects, scientific integrity and professionalism. He had a gift for communicating with precision the purpose of his investigations and the core of his findings. He directed a dozen dissertations and participated as committee member for dozens more. Alone or with his colleagues and students, Harry published 100 articles, book chapters and technical reports, and presented an equivalent number of papers at regional, national and international scientific meetings. He also edited two books. It is easy to affirm the extent of his interdisciplinary contributions through brief review of the journals in which his work appeared. In 2006, he was recognized for his achievements internationally, and was presented the International Society for the Advancement of Respiratory Psychophysiology’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Respiratory Psychophysiology.

Harry’s most continuous line of inquiry turned on the behavioral and environmental control of asthma. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a series of studies with several students examining effects of facial muscle relaxation on pulmonary function that first began at Bronco Junction Asthmatic Camp in West Virginia. Subsequently, Harry collaborated extensively with Thomas L. Creer, who joined the Department of Psychology at Ohio University as Professor and Director of Clinical Training in 1980. Together through a string of funded projects, they collaborated on over three dozen publications – many involving student co-authors – concerned with the effectiveness of asthma self-management programs in both pediatric and adult patients from both applied and theoretical perspectives.

Harry is survived by his wife Kandee Grossman, whom he married in 1997; sons Peter A. Kotses (Meredith Erlewine) and Nicholas G. Kotses (Susan Miller); a granddaughter, Kate Kotses; and former spouse Grace H. Kotses (nee Anamisakis), mother to Peter and Nicholas. He was preceded in death by his father, Pete (Pantelis) Kotses, in 1980, and his mother, Stamtia (nee Tsarnas), in 1976; and his two sisters, Stamatoula Pasvanis (1999) and Grace Zarnas (2002).

Harry was liberal of thought, sensible of mind, and socially conscious; he was respectful, and therefore respected. Curiosity for him was a habit. He knew the origin and name of every bush and palm tree on his property. Harry was always an optimist and so it was easy to be with him. He was well read and well informed on a number of subjects – current fiction, history, international affairs and politics – and so it was easy to have a conversation with him. Harry was also proud of his family and his Greek heritage and so “Life to you, may you remember him.”

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