Robert M. Guion, 1924-2012: Professor led BGSU’s work in psychology


BOWLING GREEN — Robert M. Guion, a professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University whose research and writing helped bring industrial and organizational psychology — and the university’s program in it — to prominence, died Tuesday in his home. He was 88.

He suffered a stroke at home on Oct. 17, his daughters said. He retired from BGSU in 1985, but remained active in his field and had a wide range of interests, from music to chocolate making to glass blowing. He learned to play the bassoon at 50 and to fly a plane at 55. He exercised most days at the Student Recreation Center.

In a history of BGSU’s industrial-organizational psychology doctoral program, on the university Web site, the first entry begins, “1952 — Bob Guion joins the BGSU faculty...”

“He really is such a legend in the field that I knew about him before I came here,” said Mike Zickar, psychology department chairman who joined the faculty in 1996.

Mr. Guion was a path-breaking researcher, “particularly with regard to employment issues and the use of tests for selecting employees,” said Milton Hakel, a professor emeritus of psychology — who knew about Mr. Guion before arriving at BGSU in 1991. Mr. Guion in 1965 received the prestigious James McKeen Cattell Award from the American Psychological Association’s division of industrial psychology, as did Mr. Hakel for a separate project.

Mr. Guion’s mid-1960s textbook, Personnel Testing, “became essentially the fundamental guidance both for practice and for future researchers in the field,” Mr. Hakel said. “Generations of students studied it carefully.”

The text was influential “not just for the specific research questions, but the overall research approach and asking clear questions and gathering data and analyzing it carefully,” Mr. Hakel said.

Mr. Zickar said: “He was a true scientist who was outspoken on the need to apply scientific methods to employment decisions.”

Other books of his included Assessment, Measurement, and Prediction for Personnel Decisions, the second edition of which was published last year, and he was the author or co-author of many papers.

“He was, at foundation, interested in fairness,” his daughter Judy said.

Dry academic prose was not his style.

“Bob’s writing was very precise, but also very humorous and in some ways colloquial,” Mr. Zickar said.

In person, he could be curmudgeonly — and he could be wry, with “a twinkle in his eye,” Mr. Hakel said.

“When you got beyond the gruff exterior,” Mr. Zickar said, “he was a sweet person and was involved in his church and community.”

Mr. Guion, chairman of the BGSU psychology department from 1966-71, was a former editor of the Journal of Applied Psychology. He was a former president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which in 1987 presented him with its distinguished scientific contribution award.

“He really put the Bowling Green program on the map,” Mr. Hakel said. “It all traces back to his coming to Bowling Green and finding enough support in the department and university to conduct his research and spend his life there.”

In 1982, Mr. Guion was named a “university professor,” one of BGSU’s highest honors.

In 1997, the American Psychological Association’s division of evaluation measurement, and statistics granted him its lifetime achievement award. In 2000, he received two more honors for his contributions to the field.

His work life demanded travel and occasional long nights in his home office.

“He had very high standards, and he wanted to do it right,” daughter Diana said.

But he “didn’t talk psychology all the time at home,” daughter Judy said. “He never missed a recital or play or event that was important to his kids.”

He gave credit for his success to his wife, Emily, a librarian by profession who was a stay-at-home mother of five.

“She really held down the fort,” daughter Pam said. “And he said because she was able and willing to do that, he was able to focus on advancing his career.”

He was born Sept. 14, 1924, in Indianapolis to Carolyn and Leroy Guion. He grew up in Fort Wayne and was a graduate of South Side High School there. He was an Army veteran of World War II and served in Italy.

He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1948 from Iowa State University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Purdue University in industrial psychology.

In February, 2011, he and his wife were among 22 couples from across Ohio who were recognized by First Lady Karen Waldbillig Kasich and the Ohio Department of Aging for their dedication to marriage and volunteerism. The couple delivered Wheeled Meals for years.

Surviving are his wife, Emily, whom he married June 8, 1947; sons, David and Keith; daughters, Diana White, Pam Lillard, and Judy Utsler, and nine grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in First United Methodist Church, Bowling Green, where the family will greet friends after 9:30 a.m. Arrangements are by the Dunn Funeral Home.

He sang in the First United Methodist choir, and the family suggests tributes to the church for its choir scholarship program.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

or 419-724-6182.