Professor of psychology Joan Bombace passed away Tuesday, Sept. 3, due to a long illness.
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A Quinnipiac alumna and a member of faculty since 1982, Bombace founded the psychology honors society Psi Chi and the Quinnipiac University Interdisciplinary Research Program.
“Her biggest interest was in teaching the science of psychology,” Psychology Department Chair Professor Carrie Bulger said. “That was her passion in life. She was a tremendous scholar and she loved to do research and she most especially loved to do research with students.”
According to Bulger, Bombace was interested in the work of 20th century psychologist Ivan Pavlov, who studied the conditioned responses of dogs. For the past few years, Bombace researched the conditioned response of blinking with several students. The students will continue with the research, Bulger said.
Students benefited greatly from Bombace’s research programs, Professor of Psychology Michele Hoffnung said.
“It is something that our department values very greatly, giving kids research, giving students research experience and Joan was as good as any of us at doing it and that was very special.”
Senior and President of Psi Chi Rose Smith researched with Bombace since her sophomore year. When Bombace asked Smith to be a part of the research team, the professor saw a potential in her that the girl did not know she had, Smith said.
“I definitely attribute all my success to her,” Smith said. “I was never a strong leader until her because even through the research I had to be a leader and I had to devote a lot of time to it so she saw a lot in me that kind of pushed me to want to become more than just your average student.”
Since it was her area of expertise, Bombace taught the Learning and Conditioning class. However, she also enjoyed teaching Introduction to Psychology during the first semester.
“She liked introducing that population of people to the science of psychology, just coming into college and not knowing much,” Bulger said.
Bombace’s classes were difficult, but rewarding, Smith said.
“She held everybody to very high standards, but she also had complete faith that we could meet those standards so there was no excuse as to why you wouldn’t be able to do something,” Smith said. “She really would help you along and show you really had the ability to do it.”
According to Hoffnung, Bombace stayed in touch with students, even after they graduated.
“She would send around updates to all of us in the department about former students who had a new baby or a higher degree or a new job or something like that,” Hoffnung said.
Smith described Bombace as motherly.
“She was very headstrong, always looking for something new for us to do and always looking for new opportunities and she was very into how we could succeed as people,” Smith said. “At the same time she loved to just joke around. She liked to take care of us, always giving us food and things like that.”
Bombace loved food and always asked students if they knew of new restaurants in the Quinnipiac area, Smith said.
“The other thing I remember about Joan that makes me smile is I have never known anybody that loved chocolate quite the way she did,” Hoffnung said. “It was remarkable so that when it was her birthday we could each show up with a different form of chocolate and you knew she never get tired of it.”
The psychology department is planning a memorial for Bombace in the near future, Smith said. According to a MyQ announcement, Bombace’s family asked that instead of flowers people send donations to the university for scholarships for psychology students.