By Alec Matuszak
Dr. Gerald Lachter, the chairperson of the department of psychology and a professor of psychology for more than 40 years, passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Lachter studied many areas of psychology, but specialized in developmental disabilities, and experimental and applied behavior analysis. He was very interested in making learning easier for children with autism.
In addition to his academic interests, Lachter enjoyed watching pro sports, especially tennis. He often explained concepts in psychology by using sports as a metaphor.
Teaching psychology may have been Lachter’s job, but it was easy to tell the field was his passion. Lachter had no problem expressing to his students the importance of skepticism, and his absolute hatred for pseudoscience and shows that promote such “nonsense” like Ancient Aliens on the History Channel.
Lachter was beloved by his colleagues. Psychology professor Lois Tepper reflected on meeting him for this first time at Southampton College, 11 years ago.
“LIU had just informed us that [Southampton] college would close at the end of the 2005 spring semester and several of us would teach at C.W. Post in the fall,” she said. While many professors were understandably nervous, Lachter did his best to calm nerves and keep everyone together.
“Gerry made a special trip to come [and] personally talk to the four of us [at] the Southampton Psychology Department. He patiently waited so we could teach our classes and see him individually during the between breaks,” Tepper said. “This act of consideration took up a lot of his time but made a lasting impression of the kindness and understanding that our new Department Chair would show all of us. He will be remembered fondly and [will be] greatly missed.”
Professor Ethel Matin also worked alongside Lachter. He inspired her to develop her own version of his “personalized system of instruction.” This is simply known to many around Post as “Applied Behavior Analysis with Gerry Lachter,” according to Matin.
She coined Lachter the “enthusiastic and eloquent local champion” of his own teaching methods. Matin uses Lachter’s teaching methods today, and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“Over the years, Gerry became a respected and loved colleague,” Matin said. She noted that his work with autistic children and adults had a large influence on the department. “He will be sorely missed,” she said.
Professor Grace Rossi remembered Gerald Lachter as a man who had true love for his late wife, Abby, and his two daughters Eloise and Katie. Alongside his passion for tennis, Lachter “never turned down a cup of coffee, no matter what time of day it was!” Rossi said. Maria Barrios, a senior criminal justice major and former student of Lachter’s, remembered him as a “great man and a great professor that was loved by LIU as a whole.”
Barrios admitted morning classes aren’t the easiest for her to get excited about, however, Lachter was an exception. “He was very unique,” she said. “He was able to get his point across and grab my attention very well.”