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Indiana University mourns passing of former IU Bloomington Chancellor Sharon Brehm

For Immediate Release Apr 2, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University community mourns the passing of former IU Bloomington chancellor, professor emerita and renowned scholar Sharon Brehm, who died March 30, 2018, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Standing from left, Michael A. McRobbie, Sharon Brehm, Dan Smith and Lauren Robel
Sharon Brehm, second from left, received the IU Foundation President’s Medallion in 2013.

Brehm served as IU Bloomington chancellor and vice president for academic affairs from 2001 to 2003. She later worked as a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and served as president of the American Psychological Association, the largest association for psychologists in the world.

She was the first woman to hold the position of IU Bloomington chancellor.

“Indiana University is deeply saddened by the passing of Sharon Brehm, who served the university admirably as a senior administrator, an exceptional scholar and an enthusiastic teacher,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said.

“Sharon was a well-respected president of the prestigious American Psychological Association. She was also a great friend to and extremely generous supporter of the university, whose estate gift will fund an endowed chair in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington. We had the privilege of recognizing her generosity when we inducted her into the Presidents Circle, IU’s most prestigious donor recognition society. Sharon will be greatly missed by her many friends and colleagues, and our thoughts and condolences go out to them.” 

Born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, Brehm earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate from Duke University, and a master’s from Harvard. Before coming to IU, she held college and university administrative positions at the University of Kansas, the State University of New York at Binghamton and Ohio University. 

Trained as a clinical psychologist, Brehm specialized in child clinical psychology, focused increasingly on social psychology. She also advocated for the integration of clinical and social psychology and encouraged a stronger dialogue between developmental and social psychology.

Brehm’s research examined the effects of psychological reactance, empathy and self-focus. She published numerous books, chapters, monographs and articles in both clinical and social psychology, including two textbooks in multiple editions.

In 2007, she served as the president of the American Psychological Association. During her term, she worked to increase APA membership; ensure a diverse community of psychologists; encourage the growing interest in interdisciplinary science; strengthen the internationalization of psychology; support prescriptive privileges; and engage other scientific organizations and publishers to maintain the peer review system. 

Brehm’s initiatives as APA president included the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Integrative Healthcare for an Aging Population; the joint APA-Society for Research in Child Development Task Force on Math and Science Education; and the Presidential Task Force on Institutional Review Boards and Psychological Science. 

A strong advocate for the importance of international education, Brehm was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, widely considered as the most prestigious institution for the social sciences in France, and a visiting scholar in Germany and Italy. She also served on the American Council on Education’s International Commission and the Association of American Universities’ Global Resources Program.

She was chair of the governing board of OhioLINK, the statewide higher education consortium, and founding chair of the governing board of the Ohio Learning Network. She also served as a member of the board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and the Bloomington Area Arts Council.

In 2011, Brehm was inducted into the Presidents Circle, IU’s most prestigious donor recognition society. In 2013, McRobbie and IU Foundation President Dan Smith awarded Brehm the IU Foundation President’s Medallion, which honors individuals whose extraordinary commitment, character and counsel have advanced philanthropy and enabled IU to excel in transforming lives, communities and society.

Brehm was married to the late Jack Brehm, longtime member of the Department of Psychology faculty and professor emeritus at the University of Kansas.

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