In Memoriam: Emeritus Professor David Mostofsky

David I. Mostofsky

‘A good man,’ said a former student; ‘he was mensch,’ said his collaborator of 48 years.

David Mostofsky was born in Boston on September 19th, 1931. He graduated from Yeshiva-University in 1953 and was ordained as a Rabbi in 1955 before heading to Boston University. He received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1960. After obtaining his Ph.D., he joined the faculty of the School of Education (1961-1965), later to become a member of the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and an adjunct Professor of the School of Medicine. He served as Associate Chairman of the Psychology Department (1973-1975) and was Chairman of the University Faculty Council (1987-1988). He was a product of the zeitgeist of the times. Behaviorism, the interest in the biology of behavior, advances in measurement theory, and novel technologies on the measurement of behavior marked his academic career and contributions to the field.

David completed his Ph.D. with Philip Nogee, a mentorship that fostered his enduring interest in measurement theory and the teaching of statistics. As a graduate student, he also worked with Gary Margolious. This work resulted in several publications in the areas of stimulus control of behavior in human and infrahuman subjects. Work with human subjects at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, most certainly, gave an impetus to his life-long contribution to the field of behavioral medicine. Early in his career, he edited two volumes that continue to be required reading for students in the field of Experimental Learning. In 1965, he organized two international conferences on the topics of discrimination and generalization. He was a master at congregating his disciplinary colleagues being the organizer of no less than 10 international symposia conferences and symposia.

David served in the editorial boards of the Journals of Epilepsy, Seizure, Behavioral Medicine, and consultant editor of the Psychological Review, Science, Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, and the series editor of Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience. He was the author of 26 edited books and monographs and well over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. As a true multidisciplinarian, he worked on a variety of areas: the behavior of fish, behavioral dentistry, the management of epilepsies, Tourette syndrome, the effects of brain nutrients on behavior. Just to name a few. His longtime collaborator and friend Shlomo Yehuda wrote: ” … to work with David on scientific projects or writings was a uniquely educational and inspirational experience. He was able to check every small detail in the project, and at the time, to see the “great picture.”

For decades he taught introductory statistics and behavioral medicine. His office door remained open, welcoming students that sought help on the subject or sought advice on their future career plans or stopped by to enjoy his company. One of his colleagues recently wrote, “Students felt like they had found a mentor and a friend,” after meeting with him at the incoming student luncheons. He is described by his closest friends as having been easy-going, compassionate, empathetic, and someone who loved people. Qualities acknowledged and appreciated by all his students. He mentored graduate students with unwavering commitment, serving on countless dissertation committees across the university. Prof. Mostofsky retired from Boston University in 2017. For more than fifty years David crossed from Brookline to Boston almost daily to meet his classes, his students, and his colleagues at a university he served well.

He was deeply religious. He was also a man of culture. A genuine expert of Jewish culture and heritage with an open mind toward other cultures and beliefs. Besides, He was a man of science. He lived in harmony between many worlds. David is survived by his wife of 45 years, Rita, his son, Levi, and his daughter Elizabeth.

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