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Florence Snodgrass

The first female Beaverbrook Scholar and one of Canada’s first female psychologists, Florence Thompson Snodgrass had a remarkable academic career that spanned more than five decades, beginning and ending at the University of New Brunswick.

Born in Young’s Cove, NB, in 1902, Florence arrived at UNB in 1920 as one of the first cohort of four Beaverbrook Scholarship recipients. Without the scholarship, which she considered to be a “fluke” in a time when women were not encouraged to attend university, she later said that she would not have considered pursuing a degree.

Florence excelled as a UNB student, winning the Governor General’s Gold medal and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1924. While her intention was to teach school after graduation – which she did for several years – it was a course taught by Dr. Wilfred Keirstead that inspired in her a lifelong passion for the study of psychology.

After teaching high school mathematics in Michigan and New York, Florence earned a Master’s in Education from Harvard University in 1927, having filled her course roster with as much psychology as the education curriculum would allow. She soon accepted a position in the department of psychology and education at Washington College in Maryland. Unwilling to give up a paid career during the Depression in order to further her studies in psychology, she stayed at Washington College for twelve years, pursuing graduate studies on weekends at nearby Johns Hopkins University. In the early 1940s, she enrolled in a doctoral program in psychology at Yale University. Although her studies were interrupted by five years spent in New Brunswick caring for ailing parents, she earned a PhD in psychology from Yale in 1949.

Keirstead Hall

In 1950, Dr. Snodgrass returned to UNB as Head of the Department of Psychology. Under her leadership, the department saw tremendous growth – introductory psychology enrolment, for instance, grew from fewer than 20 people to more than 450. During her 17-year tenure, she faced significant resistance from a university administration reluctant to provide funding and research space to the emerging field of psychology. Despite many obstacles and great difficulty in attracting high-quality scholars, she persevered – and succeeded in establishing a modern department with an excellent reputation. With her direction, the psychology department gained a new, state-of-the-art home in Keirstead Hall in 1968.

Florence Snodgrass was named UNB’s first female Professor Emerita in 1974. UNB is home to several bursaries and awards established by and in honour of Dr. Snodgrass; among these is a fund established by Dr. Snodgrass in support of New Brunswick students in need, to which she left what was, at that point, the University’s largest-ever bequest by a faculty member. In 1991, a newly renovated lounge in Keirstead Hall was dedicated to her.

Florence Snodgrass died in 1997 at the age of 94, having set a high bar for generations of Beaverbrook Scholars to follow.