School 13

Dr. Eugene Rae Harcum

March 1, 1927 ~ November 13, 2021 (age 94)


Eugene Rae Harcum died unexpectedly last week.  He was born to Myrtle and Payten Harcum in 1927 and had one sister, Lois, who was 17 months his senior (and preceded him in death).  The first several months of his life were spent in Cambridge, Maryland and then in Washington D.C..  He began school in Arlington, Virginia and completed high school with honors at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington in 1944.
   After graduating from high school he worked for several months at a local grocery store while waiting to enter the U.S. Navy in January, 1945.  In the Navy, he was the honor man of his recruit company of 120 men at Bainbridge, Maryland, and first in his class of 80 men at Quartermaster School, also at Bainbridge.  While in the Navy, he served aboard the U.S.S. Tarawa, an Essex-class aircraft carrier. The Tarawa was based in Norfolk, Virginia, and visited several ports on the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans, notably Guantanamo, Cuba.  He was honorably discharged from the Navy in June, 1946, as a Quartermaster Third Class.
   He enrolled at the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1946.  He majored in psychology and graduated with a B.S. degree in January, 1950.  He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1950.
   Dr. Harcum enrolled for graduate study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950.  During the summer of 1951, he conducted research on environmental stress for the U.S. Navy in San Antonio, Texas.  He received a Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins in 1952.
   Later that year, he married Phoebe, a girl from Poquoson, Virginia.  He claims that the full effects of his wife on him cannot be exaggerated.  She was a constant source of inspiration and control.  She made him a better parent and citizen.  The Harcums moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he continued his graduate study at the University of Michigan.  He received the Ph.D. degree in psychology in 1955.  His doctoral dissertation involved rearing rats in restricted environments and testing for later effects on their explorative and learning skills.  He found that rats reared in environments that restricted their motor and visual experience in the vertical dimension showed a deficit in learning a vertical discrimination task.  After receiving his degree,  Dr. Harcum worked in the Vision Research Laboratories at Michigan under various contracts with the U.S. Army and Navy.  These contracts involved collection of practical data for use in real life, simulator, and theoretical situations.
   In 1958, he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Psychology at The College of  William and Mary.  He was chairman of the Psychology Department at William and Mary from 1976 until 1982.  While at William and Mary he taught just about every course in the psychology curriculum, but primarily Experimental Psychology and Introductory Psychology.
   Professor Harcum held many adjunct positions in consultation and research.  Included among these was Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.  He also received a grant that involved presentations at several universities in Great Britain.  While at William and Mary, he responded to invitations to make presentations at several major universities in the United States.  He was elected to an honorary position on the Vision Committee of the National Academy of Science and to fellowships of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychological Society.  He was also president of the Sigma Xi club at William and Mary, an honorary research society. He served on the Virginia State Board of Psychologists from 1974 until 1979. He was chairman of that board in1978 and 1979. He retired as a full professor in 1993.
   Professor Harcum is the author of 99 professional articles and book chapters on psychology and religion. He was the author of fourteen published books, most on psychology and religion and the relations between them. Perhaps his most important book is a basic attack on the theory of B. F. Skinner, a leading psychologist of the day.  He also wrote a psychological novel, which was an attack on Skinner’s book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity.  He also wrote hymns and poems, all of a religious nature. 
   Professor Harcum was active in various community enterprises, most of them religious.  They included singing in church choirs for over 55 years and teaching an adult Sunday School class for over 20 years.  He retired to the family farm in Poquoson, Virginia.  Adding to his comfort and joy are his family: daughter Sally Maxwell and her husband David, son Payten, three grandchildren James Maxwell (wife-Ginny), Chris Maxwell (wife-Ashley), Will Harcum (wife-Ashley), and eight great-grandchildren.  
 In lieu of floral tributes, the family requests that expressions of sympathy take the form of donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ( or the Society of St Andrew - “The Gleaners” (  The funeral services will be held 10 a.m. at Tabernacle UMC in Poquoson on Wednesday, November 17th with the burial immediately following in Smith Family Cemetery.

Arrangements and heartfelt guidance through Claytor Rollins Funeral Home.

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Funeral Service
November 17, 2021

10:00 AM
Tabernacle United Methodist
831 Poquoson Avenue
Poquoson, VA 23662


Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
4550 Montgomery Ave. Suite 1100 N, Bethesda MD 20814
Tel: 1-800-344-4823

The Society of St. Andrew
3383 Sweet Hollow Road, Big Island VA 24526
Tel: 1-434-299-5956

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