Vol. XXVII, No. 1
Winter 2015
Text Only Version
In This Issue
Regular Features
Editor's Note
President's Message
Featured Articles
Sexual Abuse as a Public Health Problem
Group Culture in High-Risk Groups: Developing Safety
Grant Harris
Words: Creating a Vocabulary to Heal
Book Review
Students' Voice
Taking Advantage of the ‘Little’ Opportunities
Without a Compass:
How to Navigate Ethical and Professional Challenges as a Student
ATSA Journal's Editor in chief
Call for Abstracts
Conference Summary
Public Engagement Event
Gail Burns-Smith Award Speech
Distinguished Contribution Award Speech
Student Awards
Lifetime Significant Achievement Award
New ATSA Members
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Forum Team
David Prescott
Book Review Editor

Sarah Gorter
Production Editor

Katie Gotch
Coordinator of Public Affairs
Forum Editor
Contact the editor or submit articles to:

Heather M. Moulden, Ph.D.
Forensic Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
E: hmoulden@stjoes.ca
P: (905) 522-1155 ext. 35539
Grant Harris
As remembered by Vernon Quinsey

Grant Harris

Back in 74, I was looking for someone to fill a one-year contract on a research grant. There were a number of applications but one from a recent graduate from the University of Toronto caught my eye. There was a problem, however, the applicant stated that he was a member of the Young Conservatives. I dithered about whether I should interview a person with such reactionary inclinations until another member of our team rightly pointed out that fairness required an interview.

The interviewee turned up spectacularly bearded and clad entirely in denim. Clearly, he would fit in! I found out much later that the applicant, Grant Harris, had signed up with the Young Conservatives in a vain attempt to woo a girl who was already a member of this nefarious organization and had thought that his membership in it would give him a leg up when applying for a provincial government job. Grant’s “membership” in the young conservatives would remain a standing joke for the rest of his life—to my continuing enjoyment.

I soon discovered that Grant’s scientific acumen was razor sharp; in fact I had never met anyone with intellectual abilities superior to his. Grant was later accepted by McMaster University where he studied memory but at the time he graduated, there were few academic jobs in his somewhat arcane specialty. Shortly before his graduation, however, I had engineered a position in the Psychology Department at Oak Ridge and encouraged him to apply.

Grant was first a psychologist heavily involved in designing and implementing behaviorally oriented treatment programs at the maximum security Oak Ridge Division of the Mental Health Centre, Penetanguishene. A few years later, he joined the Research Department, ultimately becoming its Director in 2002 upon the semi-retirement of Marnie Rice (who had succeeded me as Director).

Being smarter and better informed than most, Grant often found himself explaining things. Sometimes, however, he misjudged his listeners and explained things to them that they already knew. His friends therefore teased him about his “keen grasp of the obvious”.

Grant did indeed have a keen grasp of the nature of scientific inquiry. He understood that science is able to inform advocacy but not the reverse. The business of science is to accurately understand the world as it is—scientists ought rigorously to attempt to falsify theories, not to support cherished ideas. He observed that the mixing of empirical inquiry with advocacy typically results in an intellectual muddle that supports the status quo or passing fads.

Because of this understanding, he accurately detected and despised cant, defined both as “hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature”, and as “denoting temporarily fashionable phrases or catchwords”. This trait did not endear him to those bureaucrats and clinicians who dispensed it, particularly because Grant was outspoken and fiercely protective of his scientific program. Grant also understood that applied science or engineering (in which one attempts to optimize some desired result) could sometimes yield theoretical insights. Indeed, the creative use of the results of applied science to evaluate basic scientific theories was his greatest strength.

As everybody in the business knows, Grant was a supremely successful scientist. He had 231 publications, many of them heavily cited. ResearchGate, for example, calculates his scientific reputation among its members as at the 98th percentile. At the time of his death, Grant was awaiting the galley proofs of his magnum opus: Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E., Quinsey, V.L., & Cormier, C. (2015). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk, 3rd edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Grant was a big guy with a proportionately sized heart and brain. He was proud of and close to his children, Anne and Thom, and his wife Emily. Sadly, Emily predeceased Grant by some eight months. Grant was also proud of his Research Department team—he was a patient mentor and a bureaucratic protector who fostered an academic-type atmosphere in the department and knew how to get the best out of his staff.

Grant always loved athletics. He lifted weights, cycle-toured, canoed, played tennis, rowed, and practiced Goju-Ryu karate. In his later years he became an avid fisherman. Grant was also an experienced camper. For more than thirty consecutive years, Grant, his friend, George Varney, and I went on a yearly camping trip. These trips became somewhat less strenuous and adventurous over the years. Sadly, within less than an hour of returning from our last trip, Grant had a major stroke. It is at least some comfort to think that Grant would have chosen to spend his last days fishing a beautiful autumn river.

A well-lived life cut too short.


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