Kenneth C. Kramer died Monday, June 28 at 92 years old. Kramer began working at Trinity in 1959, served as the chair of the psychology department from 1965–77, and was dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences from 1976–80. After leading the program to establish graduate degrees, counseling centers, and inter-institutional graduate programs in clinical psychology, he retired emeritus in 1992.
Before coming to Trinity, Kramer made several accomplishments and contributions to his country. He was a determined social activist, supporting candidates in the Democratic Party and working as a volunteer for the AARP. Serving as a Naval pilot during the Korean War, he also flew with Neil Armstrong in VF-51, the U.S. Navy’s first all jet fighter squadron. Kramer retained this friendship until Armstrong’s death in 2012, and his photographs and quotations are in Armstrong’s biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.
A Lieutenant, Junior Grade in the U.S. Navy, Kramer received the Distinguished Flying Cross from the President of the United States of America for his heroism and extraordinary achievements in aerial flight. Although he encountered intense machine-gun fire while leading his section of jet fighters, Kramer scored a direct hit on a concentrated group of buildings that exploded and sprayed flaming fuel over an area where two thousand hostile troops were believed to be billeted. With his superb airmanship, courage, and inspiring leadership, Kramer contributed immeasurably to the success of the assigned mission and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
After piloting, Kramer followed his older brother into clinical psychology at the University of Houston. As he completed his internship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1959, he was hired at Trinity by Dr. Frances Carp, then chair of the psychology department.
John W. Worsham, Jr., Ph.D., former director of Graduate Studies in Psychology at Trinity and student of Kramer’s, wrote this tribute to him:
“I returned to Trinity in 1960 for a Master’s in psychology and Ken taught my first and best ever course in statistics. He also assisted me to become psychology’s first graduate teaching assistant. I left Trinity in 1961 to pursue doctoral studies and Ken and I met at Trinity again in 1972. Between 1968 and 70, several departments of the new U.T. Medical School, including psychiatry, were housed on Trinity’s campus as the new school was being built. Ken developed a collaborative relationship with the Chief Psychologist, Dr. Alvin G. Burstein. With the support of Drs. James Laurie and Bruce Thomas, Ken and Al conceived a master’s degree in clinical (later clinical/counseling) psychology to be administered and awarded by Trinity, utilizing the long reach of the medical school into the community for clinical practicum experiences and involvement by medical school psychologists and psychiatrists as supervisors and research partners.
They decided a Trinity clinical psychologist was needed to be the ‘man in the middle,’ and both Al and Ken decided to pluck me from psychiatry into Trinity’s faculty in 1972, supported in this by Bruce Thomas, Gail Myers and Duncan Wimpress. Ken then named me director of Clinical Training, later director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, serving full time at Trinity and half time in psychiatry at U.T. Medical School, as it was then called.
This program, born from Ken Kramer’s creative imagination, was soon expanded to two years and became a template for improvement in master’s degree programs throughout Texas. The relationship with the medical school ended in the mid 1980’s and with that the program closed down. More than half of the graduates went on to earn doctorates in psychology, medicine and law, and those with terminal master’s degrees became the first Licensed Professional Counselors, leaders in a new clinical profession in Texas. While still at Trinity and married to Margaret, the two of them assisted Rosie Castro, the mother of Julian and Joaquin Castro, to become a more effective activist. After retirement, Ken worked in Austin with progressive legislators. Then he moved to Hawaii for several years of competitive sailing before returning to live in San Antonio, often attending events at Trinity with his friend Lenda Wheeler.
His impact on psychology in Texas, and me personally, has been profound and lasting. He was in his early 90s, and many of his colleagues have gone, so it fell to me to take note of this excellent man whose support has made such a positive difference in my life.”