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Memorial Service Planned for Michael Fleming

CAS psych lecturer remembered for charismatic teaching style

Over the course of what colleagues describe as a legendary career, Michael Z. Fleming taught a wide range of courses—from personality theory, abnormal psychology, and counseling to forensic psychology and ethics in psychology. Fleming (CAS’66, GRS’71), whose career at BU spanned four decades, died earlier this year after a long illness.

A memorial service for the longtime College of Arts & Sciences lecturer in psychology will be held at Marsh Chapel on Wednesday, June 5, at 3 p.m.

During his tenure at BU, he coordinated Metropolitan College’s evening school program in psychology for nearly three decades and was a School of Medicine adjunct associate professor of psychiatry.

“Michael Fleming was a talented and dedicated educator,” says Michael Lyons, a CAS professor of psychology and department chair. “He was a very charismatic figure in the classroom. Many of my advisees had to wait years to get a seat in his legendary psychopathology class.”

In addition to being a brilliant teacher, Fleming was also a clinical practitioner, working in many clinical areas over the years. Early on, he saw private patients who were seeking gender reassignment. This clinical experience led him to publish work on gender dysphoria, specifically female-to-male transsexuals. He had a long-term research interest in the use of feature films to teach psychology and later became interested in the use of film as part of psychological assessment.

More recently he served as a forensic psychologist and an inpatient dual diagnosis (addiction and mental illness) coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

In his role as a forensic psychologist, Fleming conducted court-ordered evaluations, including competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, and aid-in-sentencing. He also provided court testimony regarding commitment of forensic patients, those found not guilty by reason of mental illness, found unfit for trial, or given a limiting term. He was a liaison with the court regarding such patients, conducting risk assessments and consulting with treatment teams on violence risk and sexual offending risk issues.

As an inpatient dual diagnosis coordinator, he evaluated and provided clinical services to patients with both substance abuse and major mental illness. He had extensive experience in crisis management and treatment interventions with patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. He worked with both inpatients and outpatients with a variety of addictions, using group and individual treatment. He particularly loved working with his humor and film groups.

Colleagues recall Fleming’s gifts for developing meaningful interactions with nearly everyone he met. “If there was a way to get you to smile or to make a human connection, he was determined to find it—not in a superficial fashion, but rather by using his talents as a psychologist to understand your world,” says Daryl Costos, a CAS lecturer in psychology.

Fleming leaves his wife, Maureen Hayes Fleming, his daughter, Alyson Fleming, his mother, Lenore Fleming, a brother and a sister, and many other relatives.

“We have lost a beloved colleague and an extraordinary teacher,” says Lyons.

A memorial service for Fleming will be held at Marsh Chapel this Wednesday, June 5, at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public.

john o'rourke, editor, bu today
John O’Rourke

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

9 Comments on Memorial Service Planned for Michael Fleming

  • Marie on 06.04.2013 at 11:13 am

    I have missed talking to my friend of over 25 yrs on the phone, he called at least once or twice a week asking for department or fellow colleagues phone numbers. I never met Michael but we became good friends over the years. I was his go between as he called me between him and fellow colleague Freda Rebelski, I would relay greetings from one to the other. I’m sure that the both of them are catching up with each other.

  • Nava Subary Ervin on 07.10.2013 at 9:22 am

    Beloved Fleming is one of my dearest most favorite professors! Genuine, passionate, exciting & incredibly kind. Love him,will miss him,his spirit so huge will continue to inspire and encourage. An extraordinary beautiful person! Your uniqueness Fleming is delightfully fun. Your massive caring for the vulnerable so tenderly moving.Love u Nava Ervin

  • Dana Mathews on 08.14.2013 at 7:53 pm

    Michael Fleming was an AMAZING lecturer and Professor. He was full of life.
    I am so so sad to hear of his passing. My love to his family.

  • David Lacey, Psy.D. on 10.15.2013 at 9:37 am

    My heart sank when I opened the recent issue of Bostonia Magazine and discovered that my Mentor, Colleague and old Friend had passed. As a doctoral student, Michael was my supervisor for two years back in 1989-1991 at the Solomon Carter Fuller MHC in the South End. He took me under his wing, mentored myself and another doctoral student (Etay Shilony), showed us the ropes of Inpatient psychology and psychopathology in a way that no one could. He took the time to teach, and nurture us through often grueling doctoral training and process. He had earlier been the co-author of “Images in Madness” and was able to understand psychopathology like no one else, he understood and saw the “creativity” of distortions or abnormal brain functioning and thinking. He empathized sensitivity and cared for the patients on the unit and they responded. He was brilliant and was a prolific researcher with hundreds of publications. Always full of enthusiasm, energy, he passed his torch to us so we could carry on such work. We would get together at times over the years and he even remained a reference and supervisor into the 2000’s. He loved long, intellectual discussions about film, he loved to sail, he was so passionate! Unfortunately, we hadn’t seen each other in a few years much to my regret. He will be missed!! The torch however is still being carried on!

  • Lisa A. Botti on 10.22.2013 at 1:11 am

    I had been thinking about Professor Fleming lately as I reviewed why I became a Social Worker instead of a Child Psychologist. He was my Professor in Psychology at CAS in 1985 at BU. He was also my faculty advisor. He has the best sense of humor during class of all my Professors. He was so compassionate and genuine with his students. I recall once seeing him in the hallway heading to class using a cane. I was concerned and asked him if he had badly hurt himself. He just laughed and said once a year he limps on the anniversary of his father’s death. He was very matter of fact about the whole issue. He would also warn the students sitting in the front row of his classes to bring an umbrella to class because he could get quite animated during class and accidently spit while talking! Ultimately, he steered me in the right direction for a career. He sat me down and asked me what my plans were after graduation. I told him I wanted to be a child Psychologist. After a brief moment of silence he said that after knowing me and my eagerness to get out there and work with people he strongly recommended I apply to the BU School of Social Work. He was right about that advice. I did go on to get my Masters in Social work from BU right after graduating from BU CAS. I later went to work for University Hospital-now Boston University Medical Center. I actually ran into Professor Fleming in the elevator there around 1991-2. He told me he was there for a check-up. He was an amazing teacher and obviously left a life-long impression on me. I now live in Montana on an organic cattle ranch and work as a professional potter/artist in the Great Falls area. He will be missed , but lives on in all of our memories. goodbye professor Fleming and thank you for being such a great Professor and advisor.

  • Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir on 10.23.2013 at 9:58 am

    One of the most memorable courses during my studies at BU around 1980 was a course on film from the perspective of psychoanalysis, film studies, classical and literary studies, with Professor Fleming as one of the teachers. It was a course that opened up a world and it also opened up the world of psychoanalytic theory as a methood of interpreting films. Professor Fleming was an inspiring teacher, combining in depth knowledge, wisdom and humor. It is good to have had teachers like that, not the least if you make teaching a profession, like I happened to do.

  • Ellis O'Donnell on 11.13.2013 at 11:28 am

    A dear friend – took the best courses BU had to offer with him. I miss him daily – the world is much smaller without him. His insightful, compassionate view into the continuum of human experience was precious. Have not seen him for years, but heard him in my heart and mind all the time. Still do, but with profound sadness that I’ll not see him again.

  • Katrin Park on 02.06.2015 at 10:01 pm

    It’s only now — two years later — that I learn of his passing. Between 1994 and 1997, I took all of his classes at BU. He was such a remarkable lecturer — his words took us to the depths of human despair, hope and what it means to live in this world. They shaped the person I am. I too “heard him in my heart and mind all the time.” And I’m grateful that I had him at BU and in my life.

  • Chris on 02.10.2017 at 10:06 pm

    My wife and I are just now learning of his passing. We both were TAs and students of his. He was nothing short of extraordinary. He changed my life and I will never forget him. What an unfortunate absence there is without his light. I have never been so riveted by a speaker than I was with him. I will miss him, terribly.

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