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Mark Appelbaum - In Memoriam

Mark Appelbaum - In Memoriam
Mark Irwin Appelbaum
Mark has certainly left an indelible imprint on everyone he touched. He was born in Canton, Ohio, went to college at Carnegie Mellon, received his PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, and lived in Chapel Hill, Nashville, and San Diego.  Along his journey, he shared his kindness and wisdom with so many family members, students, friends, and colleagues, who are all better for knowing him.  
Early in life, Mark wanted to be a chemist. He created a lab in his basement on 36th St. in Canton. His brother Jeff loved to watch him conduct experiments with some surprisingly dangerous chemicals, while explaining the basics of what he was doing. He probably shouldn’t have poured liquid Mercury into Jeff’s hands, but Jeff turned out fine.  To his family’s surprise, instead of becoming a chemist, he studied psychology. He quickly became enamored with psychometrics -- a field devoted to testing, measurement, and assessment -- and thank goodness he did because humanity is better for it.  You may not know it, but Mark’s psychometric research probably shaped your life in some direct or indirect way. He was a member of the SAT Committee of the College Board, he worked on national longitudinal studies of child development including the Head Start Program that have had tremendous educational policy relevance, he advised on studies of mammograms letting us know the risks of not getting one, and he tackled complex methodological questions such as whether there is a causal link between videogaming and gun violence.  He was a major contributor of the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide, teaching all of us to write and cite properly.  Unfortunately, this obituary will be nonconforming to the style guide.  
Mark enjoyed a long and hugely impactful professional career as a thought leader, shaping education and administration policies at the three universities where he worked. He was an academic leader, holding positions as an Associate Dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chair of Psychology at Vanderbilt University, and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of California, San Diego. He was founding editor of Psychological Methods and editor of the Psychological Bulletin, two highly impactful APA journals. Mark was also bestowed numerous awards such as the prestigious Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship, the Distinguished Contributions Award from the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Sciences from APA. But, without a doubt, his greatest achievements are a result of his boundless kindness and generosity. Mark was a servant-leader. He listened very closely to what you had to say, the goals you wanted to achieve, and then helped you accomplish them.  He did this in his professional and personal life. For a man of his title and stature, he never wanted the acknowledgments, accolades, or praise.  He wanted to help others and without any pretense. He propelled many careers of women in the academy at a time when it was uncommon for women to be leaders in their fields. He promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion before that was common on college campuses.  He made everyone feel welcomed with his affability and warmth. 
Always a curious person, Mark picked up new hobbies when he retired from his academic position.  He took up acting at the age of 70, joined an acting troupe, and starred in a one man play. He became a board member of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus to support his love of classical music.  He volunteered his time as a mentor to first-generation college students in UCSD’s Chancellor’s Scholars Program and as a court appointed special advocate for kids in the foster care system.  He tutored international students in English.  Mark never missed an opportunity to help others. 
Mark was not an effusive person, but he showed his deep love for his family and friends by being loyal, committed, and caring.  His bond with his wife of 56 years, Sue, was indestructible.  They loved to play bridge together, to cruise around the world, and always looked forward to their annual beach trip to the North Carolina beaches with their dear friends Betsy, Lyle, and Vaida.  Mark was the chef on those beach trips, planning out the dinners ahead of time with administrative perfection, and after a few drinks partook in many games of charades. He was so proud of his two sons, Greg and Jonathan, and the families that they created.  He is beloved by his two daughters-in-law, Mai and Andrea.  When he became a grandfather to Layla (13) and Moxy (10), he completely nailed that job too.  He fully engaged with his grandchildren, playing games that they wanted to play.  Seeing Mark run around with a nerf gun with his grandson is a sight none of us would have expected.  In the last few months, he spent time playing online Clue with the grandkids and they’ll always remember him saying “I Accuse -- Colonel Mustard with the Revolver in the Conservatory!” 
He led a noble and dignified life and that is also precisely how he exited this earth on the winter solstice, December 21, 2020.  When Covid was taking over his body and his lungs, he did not want to take any extreme measures to prolong the inevitable. His family came to his bedside, surrounded him with love, and shared funny Mark-isms.  When he was excited, he would say “really, really, really” and when he didn’t know the answer, he’d have “no earthly idea.” His filler phrase was “and what have you.” All of his many students may be tickled to know that some of his last few words were, “class dismissed.”  His words, spoken in his deep calming voice, will ring in our memories forever.  
Mark was the son of Sam and Evelyn Appelbaum. Mark is survived by his wife, Suzanne Wizenberg Appelbaum, brothers Fredrick and Jeffery Appelbaum, sons Greg and Jonathan Appelbaum, daughters-in-law Mai Nguyen and Andrea Doonan, and grandchildren Layla and Moxy Appelbaum.
In lieu of flowers, you can honor Mark by making a contribution in his memory to one of his favorite special causes, the UCSD’s Chancellors Scholars Program for first-generation college students. To do so, please follow this link,, and put fund number E7017 in the search bar where it asks “Search for more giving options”. Next select “Mark Appelbaum, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Memorial Fund” from the drop-down menu, indicate the amount you wish to contribute and select the “Save Gift” button.  This will advance you to the payment form and your donation will be earmarked for the scholarship in Mark’s name.
If you prefer to contribute with a personal check, please make notation of Fund # E7017 in the memo line of the check and mail it to:         
UCSD Retirement Resource Center
Home of the Chancellor’s Scholars Program
9500 Gilman Drive, #0020
La Jolla, CA 92093-0020