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Rosslyn Gaines

Professor, Psychiatry and Psychology, Emerita

Los Angeles



Everybody that knew Rosslyn Gaines was struck by her zest for life, her energy and vitality. Only three months before she died, Rosslyn was still performing her clinical work, doing research on a grant, and writing two books. She belonged to a literature club, a Yoga group, frequently attended art exhibitions, went to the opera as much as she could, kept up a busy social life, and visited her daughter and son-in-law every week. An inveterate traveler, Rosslyn had visited and stayed in places all over the world. Since she retired from UCLA, she was inclined to get on a plane and go off on exotic trips. She had been to Antarctica twice, the Gobi desert, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bali, and in Australia many times, and annually to Bologna, Italy, where she worked with psychologists at the university there. Rosslyn was an associate member of Wolfson College, University of Oxford, England, and attended this College almost every summer for the last decade. The summer before she died, she had just come back from another stay at Bologna and a visit with friends in Spain.


Rosslyn graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University in 1948, and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from the Committee of Human Development, University of Chicago in 1961 and 1963. Her doctoral thesis concerned color-form perception, discriminative ability, and the learning of deaf and hearing children. It was this initial research on deaf children that established Rosslyn Gaines’ career. Gaines' research centered on the cognitive and emotional development of deaf children with hearing parents - and deaf parents with hearing children. Her lifelong interest in the development of deaf children was sparked when her daughter Katherine lost her hearing during birth. Gaines mastered American Sign Language and used it fluently during her patients' therapy sessions. "Rosslyn Gaines was the foremost psychologist in the country conducting research on deaf children, and her death leaves a major void," said Dr. Gloria Johnson-Powell, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, and associate dean for faculty at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison, Wisconsin.


Dr. Diana Baumrind, a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development, and a close friend of Rosslyn’s for more than 30 years, agrees. Much of Rosslyn’s seminal work on visual perception in normal and visually impaired children was supported by USPHS and Office of Education Grants and conducted from 1966 to 1971 while she was a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley.


Rosslyn wrote a large number of research articles on the perception of deaf children in such leading journals as Perceptual and Motor Skills, Child Development, Archive of Ophthalmology, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, and the Journal of Speech and Hearing Research. These, and other papers quickly established Rosslyn as a leading research specialist in this area. In 1971 Rosslyn was appointed associate professor in residence, in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, at the University of California, Los Angeles. She was made professor in 1978. Her work now also included clinical work with the deaf. In 1982, she founded and served as director of UCLA's Hearing-Impaired Children, Infants and Parents' Services (HI CHIPS), which provides psychotherapy and counseling to families with a deaf child or parent.


Rosslyn’s interests, however, extended well beyond her specialty. Her early interest in color and form perception developed into cross-cultural work on perception and in work with artists. "Rosslyn was an intriguing and complicated woman whose research interests often transcended the academic mainstream," recalled Dr. Irene Goldenberg, UCLA's director of psychological services when Gaines joined the university. "We will remember her style and panache, as well as her experimental boldness in exploring the world." "She was also one of the most outstanding developmental psychologists in the field of perceptual cognitive studies," added Johnson-Powell, who co-led a study with Gaines on the perceptual cognitive development of black children in Los Angeles; St. Kitt's, East Caribbean; Enugu, Nigeria; and Capetown, South Africa. Their work was reflected in basic articles in Child Development 1981, and in the Journal of the National medical Association 1983.


In 1981, she was also a visiting professor in the People's Republic of China, invited by, among other institutions, the Beijing Third Municipal School for the Deaf. Her work in the field of artistic ability was seen early on in articles in Perceptual and Motor Development and in the Journal of Genetic Psychology in the 1970s and 1980s, and developed into major cross-cultural work with artists, in collaboration with UCLA Professor Douglass Price-Williams, with Balinese artists (reported in the Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine 1990), and with Aboriginal artists in Australia; in the latter case showing how the tribal culture's "Dreamtime" fueled the images in their paintings. Their research was published in a journal of psychological anthropology, Ethos, in 1994.


A Fulbright scholar, awarded during her first visit to Bologna, Italy, Rosslyn Gaines received a number of honors and fellowships. She was mentioned in five Who’s Who, including The World’s Who’s Who of Women in Education and Who’s Who in Community Education. She was consulting editor for eight or nine scholarly publications; she was consultant for the integration of handicapped children into Head Start in the mid-seventies; she was also involved in community service for numerous agencies, particularly those concerned with the deaf. Rosslyn gave scholarly papers and lectures at universities and conferences all over the world, such as Oxford University, England, in 1978, Montreal, Canada in 1980, Rome, Italy, in 1983, Helsinki, Finland, in 1987, Budapest, Hungary in 1988, Jerusalem, Israel in 1992.


Rosslyn’s great attachment to artists culminated in forming, along with Professor Price-Williams, a group relating dreams to creativity among artists in the Los Angeles area, which continued until her terminal illness. Called the Muse Group, Rosslyn persistently attended the exhibitions and performances of members of this group, resulting in friendships with many of them that lasted the rest of her life. "Rosslyn inspired and tremendously helped the creative work of these visual, verbal and performing artists," said the group's co-founder Dr. Douglass Price-Williams.


Throughout her life, Rosslyn enacted a fundamental philosophy of self-examination. This began first with standard psychotherapy of the non-directive kind, which blossomed some years later into her becoming a prominent Jungian teacher. In the last five or six years of her life, Rosslyn studied under a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, who conducted services for her at her burial and memorial ceremonies. Coupled with her extraordinary vigor and energy – she swam her daily laps the day before she was sent to hospital for her terminal illness; her ability to fight vicissitudes, of which there were many; and her unfailing optimism and respect for life, Rosslyn was a remarkable person. Dr. Baumrind added that Rosslyn was a devoted friend who will be remembered for her intellectual vivacity, élan vital, and elegant finesse as well as for her creative contributions to clinical practice and scholarship.


She is survived by her son, John Gaines, of Kinnelon, N.J.; her daughter, Katherine Eliel, of Pasadena, California; and two granddaughters, Taylor and Easton Gaines.


Any statement about Rosslyn would be incomplete if there was no reference to the devotion and care she gave to her daughter, Katherine, who was born with severe handicaps. At the suggestion of a prominent psychologist, Rosslyn, with the help of Katherine, documented the early days of their life together in a book-long manuscript, which was only completed a few months before her death.


Douglass Price-Williams

Diana Baumrind