In Memoriam: Noted Child Psychologist Was Known for Spellbinding Lectures

E. Mavis Hetherington, UVA Professor of Psychology
Hetherington chaired UVA’s Department of Psychology from 1980 to 1984.
David Skinner

Renowned University of Virginia child psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington, who spent most of her 39-year career at UVA, died July 21 at age 96.

Born in Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Hetherington served as the chair of the Department of Psychology from 1980 to 1984. Among a long list of accolades, in 1987 she won the Thomas Jefferson Award, the top honor for scholarship at the University.

Hetherington was a skilled scholar, author and teacher. She was best known for her studies on the impact of divorce on children and co-wrote or edited more than 10 books.

In a 2008 UVA Today profile, a former student described her this way:

“The professor, a stunning young woman with long, flaming red hair, would enter the amphitheater-style classroom from the rear, storm down the aisle onto the stage and, without using a single page of notes, hold nearly 500 students spellbound for an hour, day after day.”

Charlotte Patterson, a professor of psychology at UVA, said Hetherington welcomed her to the faculty in 1975 straight from graduate school.

“She was a colorful and charismatic person who was also a dynamic academic leader. I was lucky to have her as a mentor, colleague and friend for many years,” she said.

Hetherington was predeceased by her husband of 49 years, John, who taught at UVA’s School of Law and died in 2006.