Vanderbilt Kennedy Center mourns the loss of former director Travis Thompson

Former Vanderbilt Kennedy Center director Travis I. Thompson, Ph.D., died Aug. 2, in Roseville, Minn., after an extended illness.

By: Elizabeth Turner

Former Vanderbilt Kennedy Center director Travis I. Thompson, Ph.D., died Aug. 2, in Roseville, Minn., after an extended illness. He was 86.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. The family requests that memorials be made to the Autism Society of Minnesota or Minnesota Public Radio.

Travis Thompson served as director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center from 1991 through 2000, during which time he held academic appointments in the Vanderbilt University departments of Psychology and Human Development, Special Education, Psychology, and Psychiatry.

During his tenure as director of the VKC, Thompson is credited as establishing what is now known as the VKC’s Arts and Disabilities Program in 1994. He was acclaimed as an artist himself, being rather accomplished in stained glass and watercolors. In the years that have followed, the VKC has sponsored exhibits of art by and about people with disabilities that demonstrate the diverse talents of individuals with disabilities. Thanks to Thompson’s leadership, the VKC Arts Program has showcased artwork in an assortment of media from hundreds of talented individuals over the years, giving their strengths of creativity and ingenuity their moment to be seen and appreciated by the public.

Thompson received his doctoral training in Psychology at the University of Minnesota and completed postdoctoral work at the University of Maryland with Joseph V. Brady and at Cambridge University (UK) with Robert Hinde. His earliest work dealt with the relations among concepts from behavior analysis, ethology, and pharmacology.

Prior to his move to Vanderbilt, Thompson served as longtime director of the University of Minnesota’s Neuro-Behavioral Pharmacology Training Program and coordinator of the university’s Behavior Analyst Certificate Program within the Department of Educational Psychology’s Special Education Program.

In 2000, Thompson served as Smith Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where he served before returning to the University of Minnesota in 2003, from which he retired.

Thompson co-authored the first textbook in behavioral pharmacology and conducted basic and applied interdisciplinary research in developmental disabilities, including genetics, pharmacology, and neuroscience. He was involved in developing one of the first large-scale behavioral intervention programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities and directed home-based early intervention services for young children with autism in Minnesota.

His publications include 225 articles and chapters and 29 books. A total of 48 doctoral students have completed their training under his mentorship. Thompson received numerous awards, including the APA Division 1 (Society for General Psychology) Ernest Hilgard Award, Division 25's Don Hake Award, and the Division 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) Edgar Doll Award. He was a Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International.

We at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center extend our most sincere condolences to his wife Anneke and their family.

Last Updated: 8/8/2023 11:12:37 AM

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