College of LAS « Illinois

Faculty member named Fred and Ruby Kanfer Professor of Psychology

Benjamin Hankin's research focuses on understanding depression in children and adolescents

Benjamin Hankin, second from left, with students after an investiture ceremony honoring him as the Fred and Ruby Kanfer Professor of Psychology.
Benjamin Hankin, second from left, with students after an investiture ceremony honoring him as the Fred and Ruby Kanfer Professor of Psychology.
Benjamin L. Hankin, a professor of psychology at Illinois, has been named the Fred and Ruby Kanfer Professor of Psychology. It is the first ever endowed named position in the Department of Psychology.

An investiture is one of the highest honors that a faculty member can receive.  The position is named for the late Frederick Kanfer and his wife, Ruby. Frederick received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Indiana University in 1953 before joining the Illinois faculty in 1973.

Hankin, a renowned researcher in his field, arrived at Illinois this fall. He worked previously at the University of Denver after earning his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin in 2001. He has since published over 140 papers and co-edited two books, with his research continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and private foundations.

Hankin’s research focuses on understanding depression, especially in children and adolescents.

“I feel very fortunate to accept this endowed position,” Hankin said. “I am very grateful to the Kanfer family, the College of LAS, the university, and the Department of Psychology for the opportunity to come to University of Illinois, where I get to continue my research and teaching, in a profession I love, at a world class university with amazing colleagues who have become wonderful friends.”

He added: “For us as academics, the relationships we have with our students and colleagues are what makes this profession so exciting, vibrant, and joyous.”

Brian Ross, associate executive dean of the College of LAS, said a named professorship is one of the greatest honors for a faculty member.

“It recognizes great work,” said Ross. “Recipients bring honor to themselves, to their department, to the college, and to the institution as a whole. And through their work, they provide inspiration and opportunity for their students.”

Wendy Heller, head of the Department of Psychology, spoke highly of Hankin’s research, noting that one reviewer described Hankin’s work on gender differences in depression as a “standard starting point” for any work on depression in adolescence.

“The department is extremely pleased to have such a strong scholar in the area of psychopathology who is helping understand what causes mental illness, how to diagnose it, and how to treat it,” she said.

Kanfer was a pioneer in the behavioral therapy movement and a founding father of self-management therapy. His seminal research on self-control and applications to the therapeutic process provided the foundation for the modern theories of self-management and cognitive behavior therapy methods being practiced widely today.

He dedicated more than 25 years to Illinois and was named professor emeritus in 1995. He published over 150 scientific articles and served on editorial boards of U.S. and international psychological journals. A Fulbright Professor in Europe, he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award and the Gold Medal of Honor from Vienna for his contributions to the advancement of clinical psychology in Europe. In October 2002, Kanfer was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Psychologie. 

Frederick and Ruby Kanfer met and married in New York in 1952.  Over the next 50 years, Mrs. Kanfer served as an active partner in her husband’s career, a devoted homemaker, and loving mother.  She enjoyed traveling, outdoor activities and reading.  They had two children, Ruth and Larry Kanfer, both of whom have close ties to the University of Illinois, and three grandchildren, Sarah, Anna, and David.

Taylor Hofffman

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