Special Interview with Accomplished Psychologist, Dr. Joseph E. Trimble

Published by Division 45 on

Natalie Davis

Reprinted with permission from The Peace Psychologist 

Spring 2021, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp. 12-14

Natalie Davis

It is with great pleasure and privilege that we showcase Dr. Joseph E. Trimble in this issue. Dr. Trimble holds a career of over 50 years as a social psychologist; he has produced countless publications and been cited over 9,000 times, been an invited speaker to many conferences and colleges, presented at symposiums across the nation and the world, received numerous awards that speak to his dedication and character, and throughout his entire career, has been an advocate and social justice activist for those underrepresented.

Dr. Trimble’s accomplishments in the field of psychology and in recognizing and advocating for underrepresented peoples are nearly too great to name. This interview showcases Dr. Trimble’s career and work, and it also gives us a glimpse into what kind of man he is:

·      A dedicated family man, who spoke so kindly about Molly, his wife of 51 years, and his daughters Gen, Lee, and Casey, while additionally expressing many kind thoughts and stories about his grandfather;

·      A man of great character, who saw injustices and sought to correct them;

·      A man who not only taught but continually challenged himself to learn, as well;

·      A man of courage and perseverance, who pressed on despite the innumerable obstacles in his way;

·      A man who lived a life trying to do right, honest, and good things.

The world is fortunate to have someone like Dr. Trimble in it, and we will benefit from his work for years to come.

As Dr. Trimble shared a fascinating story with me about how “A Quest for Discovering Ethnocultural Themes in Psychology,” published in the Handbook of Multicultural Counseling came about, I found his storytelling ability very fascinating.

Trimble (T): I grew up in that tradition, so that’s how I heard things. People told stories, and so you learn that tradition and never let go of it. So that’s how it comes about. Think about yourself and the opportunities you had to spend time with your grandparents. Often, you could just sit around and then they would start talking. And they would tell these sometimes sad stories, but most of the time, really good, uplifting stories about your mom or your dad or their lives, etc., and how riveting they are, and engaged we become.

Peace Psychologist (PP): You’ve received innumerable awards throughout your career, which greatly speaks to the impact of your work and character. These includes the Lifetime Distinguished Career Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division 45 in 1994, the Distinguished Psychologist Award of 2002 from the Washington State Psychological Association, the Peace and Social Justice Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division on Peace Psychology in 2004, and the Francis J. Bonner, MD Award from the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA in 2013. (We’ve highlighted a more comprehensive review of Dr. Trimble’s awards and accomplishments at the bottom of this article and would encourage you to take a peek!). There was a lovely article written about you for receiving the American Psychological Foundation’s Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in Public Interest. One thing that stuck out to me from it was that you almost didn’t attend college.

T: I come from a very large family. And no one had ever gone to college. That was not the script. The script was you graduated high school, hopefully, and if you were a male you served in the military, then you got married and had children and worked and then retired and became a grandparent, and that was it. So no one, no one, ever thought about going to college, because first of all, college was for the wealthy, at least that was the mindset.

It seemed as if college was simply not possible, but that all changed when he received a letter from Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, offering him a small athletic scholarship. His father told him they could not af ord it and that he couldn’t go, but Dr. Trimble’s intuition led him to keep the letter. One day while at his Grandfather Sage’s farm, he and his grandfather went walking–something quite unusual.

T: He said, “I understand you got a letter from some college.” I told him I did. He said, “Now I understand that your dad and mom read it and your dad said you can’t go.” I said yes and he said, “Do you still have that letter?” I said yes again and he said, “You call that man and you tell him you’re going.” And then he said, “I’ll take care of your parents, don’t worry.” That was the end of the conversation. But then he said, “Now you go, and I want you to promise me 3 things.” And I said, “Sure, whatever you want.” (Dr. Trimble still chuckles with excitement even all these years later). “1. I want you to write to me every week.” I said “Ok,” and I did. He then said, “2. When you come home for holidays, I want you to bring your books and I want to sit down and I want you to go over the books with me and tell me what you learned.” And I said that I could do that and I did. Finally, he said, “And the third thing is I want you to graduate, and I want you to do the best you can.” I was floating on cloud nine at that point…We walked back and didn’t say anything more about it.

Dr. Trimble beautifully recalled how he discovered who had provided the kind recommendation to the college that led to his athletic scholarship and acceptance.

T: What I found out was, about a month before I was about to leave, it was a Saturday morning, the doorbell rings and it’s the minister from my local Presbyterian church. Reverend Paul – a man I just adored. He was…everything – Dr. Trimble said with a sincere tone and a face of awe – Reverend Paul was the one who recommended me to the college. Reverend Paul graduated from there with a theology degree. And he was there not so much to tell my parents that, but that they had taken a collection at the church to help with my expenses. He was there to offer money and my dad said, “No, we can’t accept that.” And so, he didn’t. And he left, and my dad said, “Do you know anything about this?” I said no and that was it. We never talked about it again. Never. Ever.

PP: You know this reminds me – you mentioned how things are so interconnected. It really makes me see that in your story – in your own life and your work – how many people contributed along the way with you and helped spur that journey. In some way, I’m sure they’re in your work that you’ve done over the years.

T: Yes. Many years ago [in South Dakota], these two holy men came up to three of us (we all had doctorates) and said, “While you’re up here, we want to spend time with you and we want to have you tell us what you do. We would appreciate your knowledge as psychologists and anthropologists. At the same time, we’ll share with you our knowledge.” These guys were just incredible. Dr. Trimble highlighted with a grand gesture. They were walking out of the door, and one of them stopped and turned and pointed at us, and said, “Never forget, no one, no one, no one, has ever done anything solely by themselves. We. Are. All. Connected.” I have never forgotten that. The knowledge that I have, is the knowledge that others have offered to me, or was made available to me at some point. It realized the belief of the native and indigenous people, that we are all influenced in ways we don’t realize. I’m glad you brought this up. I firmly believe that.

And what does this have to do with peace? This may sound like a quantum leap, but if we knew that [we are all interconnected], really, really understood just how connected we are, not just we human beings but all life, and realize the power of that connectedness, I’m not so sure we would be so abusive.”

PP: Absolutely, I actually love where you took that. And so much in peace psychology and intergroup conflict includes perspective taking and having an open mind, and relies on people to recognize where they have their shared identity. The concept of being interconnected and that we are all similar in some way or another really ties into this.

T: So, woven in your questions is “What influenced you?” And it’s that belief that we are all connected. If we really, really understood that, if we felt it, I think peace is achievable. I firmly believe that. Antonio and I in that op-ed piece for the column that we wrote for The Peace Psychologist, we worked on bringing out this point. A lot of my thoughts about peace are actually summarized in that article.

For our interested readers, Dr. Trimble shares more details about his experience in South Dakota in “‘The Circling Spirits Call Us Home;’ Marginal Methods, the Shaman, and Relational Approaches to Healing Research.”

His article mentioned that he co-authored with Dr. Antonio Jimenez-Luque is “Peace Leadership and Cultural Diversity: Considerations for Our Common Future.” This has been republished by the International Leadership Association and has gone worldwide.

PP: In terms of peace psychology, it’s a hard topic of how to get people engaged, especially if unwilling to engage. Have you found any ways to help engage others? I imagine that early on in your career you probably had to deal with closed mindedness since you were studying a field that wasn’t really studied much before.

T: With a laugh, Dr. Trimble explained, “Well it didn’t exist.”

PP: You really helped pave a pathway.

T: Well, we did. It wasn’t me. We did.

Dr. Trimble explained how he went on to study under a world-renowned psychologist following an introduction at a dinner for graduate students at one of his professor’s homes.

PP: That must have been just amazing.

T: It was, it was. He was a very nice man. So things worked out and I moved down to the area. It was early December and my roommate said, “Hey, there’s some riots going on in the city, let’s go down there and see what’s going on.” So we take the subway, and we go down near the area where the demonstrations were taking place and sure enough there’s all these people, and all these signs, and all this shouting, and I’m just taking it all in, and I’m just like, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” I mean, I wasn’t näive in any sense, but I was watching just how committed these people were. That whole experience stayed with me and I just couldn’t let go of it. Late Saturday morning I’m sitting [in the lab], and sure enough the man shows up – the man – in his 3- piece suit. I said, “Good morning, Professor.” I didn’t hear anything. He said, “Is there something bothering you?” I said yes and he said, “Well, tell me about it.” I told him what I had done the night before and I said, “I don’t mean any disrespect, Sir, but I’ve been sitting here all morning feeding these pigeons and putting them through their schedules. And I have come to the conclusion that I don’t see any relationship between what I’m doing here and what I witnessed last night, and how we can solve these horrible, social injustices – racist, sexist, feminist problems.” He said, “Mr. Trimble, be at my office first thing at 8 o’clock Monday morning” and then walked away. The other graduate students who were there said, “Mr. Trimble, you are finished; you just ruined your career; you are done.”

And so Monday morning rolls around, 8 o’clock I’m there, I knock on the door and I hear, “Please come in, Mr. Trimble.” So I came in and he said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you told me, and I appreciate your honesty. I’ve talked with the people in the social psychology program, and they welcome you if you want to join them.” And he gave a suggestion: “Finish this semester and you won’t lose your scholarship and your teaching assistantship.”

Roughly two months later, this classmate of mine says, “Hey, there’s a convention in town, the Eastern Psychological Association. Let’s go down and see what’s going on.” We see some people standing outside this restaurant and we hear, “Hey Charlie, over here.” We turn around, and there is this guy [who] comes over to us – it turns out that him and Charlie were students together in college. We went to this restaurant and we went to this back room, and there is this one chair – it must be fate or destiny, no one was sitting in this chair. So I said to this man, “May I sit here?” He said, “Sure.” We had a conversation, he introduced himself to me – it was one of the famous social psychologists, whose work I just fell in love with, and he was at the University of Oklahoma at the Institute of Group Relations. He said, “Why don’t you finish your doctoral studies at the University of Oklahoma?” And I shook his hand and I said, “Done deal.” Little did I know that he was leaving shortly to go to Penn State. But I showed up at OU and finished my degree. And that sort of set my direction because I became very involved in social injustices and group relations and ethnicity and culture and whatnot that were not included in the field of psychology. I wanted to do research with American Indians – no one else in Psych did, why not? And my committee agreed. So my doctoral dissertation at Oklahoma was the first psychology doctoral dissertation that did research with American Indians.

Dr. Trimble’s initial interest in this field would fuel his work moving forward, leading to a tremendous career, including a time period serving as President of APA Division 45.

T: Back in 2001, I was President of Division 45, Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race. And I got a phone call from a colleague, who was the program chair for the APA Convention. He told me, “I’ve got to turn in a title for your presidential address. Do you have one?” And I said,” I have no idea what I’m going to talk about yet.” And he said, “Well, I hope you come up with one because I have to have this [submitted] within the next couple weeks.” As often happens with me, I will have a dream about the title of an article, or book, or a talk that I’m giving. In the middle of the night, I’ll often come into [my office], and write it down on a piece of paper. So one night, I had this dream of giving a talk, and this word kept coming over and over, so I got out of bed, came in and wrote down ‘spirituality: APA.’

So I went back to bed, and my wife Molly, said “Did you have another one of those dreams last night? Let’s go see what you wrote down.” So she said, “Spirituality? No [shaking her head], psychologists would just not accept this. They don’t even want to talk about it. Your dream and spirits are telling you that this is what you should talk about at your presidential address, but nobody will show up.” So I came up with a title and called Jeff and said, “I have a title for you, Jeff.” I gave him the title, which had the word ‘spirituality’ in it. And there was this dead silence. And he said, “You’re going to talk about what?” And I said, “Spirituality and psychology, and how important it is in the lives of millions of people.” And he said, “Ok, but don’t expect anything because we don’t talk about this. I agree with you that we should, but…”

I worked on it and worked on it, and instead of just getting up and talking about it, I decided to demonstrate it. So I got Native poetry, Native artwork, a couple of film clips, music from different cultures that expressed it, and laid it out so that it was a multimedia presentation for my presidential address. So I showed up; I walked into the big, huge room where I was scheduled. And it was packed. Standing room only. I was blown away! People said, “We were so excited [that] somebody’s finally going to talk about this.” And so I did, and afterwards, people were coming up to me crying, [and sharing their personal stories about how this touched on their beloved memories and feelings], and I was there for an hour, and it blew me away. Then Jeff came over and said, “I guess I was wrong.” With a laugh, Dr. Trimble said, “I guess so!”

Dr. Trimble then shared with me about one of his adventures in Alaska with the Yu’pik and his desire to learn more about their idea of awareness. They let him stay with them in their homes, and offered to take him seal hunting.

T: I figured their concept of awareness must be very different from mine, because they’re out there on the tundra, on the ice, where there is nothing, and they’ve got to be aware of everything that they feel, see, sense, where I wouldn’t necessarily be aware of those things. I asked the elder, “I have a question. How do you translate awareness in a way we would understand? How do you develop this sense of being aware?” And he says, “Tomorrow, you’ll find out, because we are going seal hunting and you’re going to come with us. Is that ok?” And I said “ok,” and we got up the next morning really early and got on the snowmobiles. And it’s just nothing, flat nothing, as far as the eye can see. It’s extraordinary. So all of a sudden the elder raises his hands and everybody slows down, they turn off the engines, and the elder’s son whispers in my ear, “Let’s go!” So everybody grabs their rifles (not me), and we start walking. We’re walking and walking, and all of a sudden, the son puts his arm out and stops me. He leans over and whispers to me, “You’re making too much noise…the way you’re walking, the seals can hear you. Let me show you how to walk.” He showed me and I imitated and he gave me the “ok” symbol. I was now aware of the fact that walking on the crusty snow was creating a sound that the seal could hear and I was walking the wrong way.

I thought, “Oh boy, I hope I didn’t scare any seals off.” Well, I didn’t, because in due time, the elder puts his hand up and points down in the snow, and I don’t see a thing, and he puts his rifle down into the snow and ice and pulls the trigger. And then they dig around the ice and pull out the seal. And they knew that seal was there, but I didn’t see anything! They did that several more times and put the seals on the back of the snowmobiles and we went back to the village. We’re sitting around dinner that evening and the elder turned to me and asked, “Do you understand what we understand about awareness?” And I said “yes.” Lesson learned!

PP: I know you mentioned that there wasn’t a lot in the field of psychology, if at all, related to American Indians or Alaska Natives. Was there anything that drew you to do research including them opposed to other underrepresented groups?

T: All the groups were underrepresented. If Black people were talked about, it was in chapters on prejudice and discrimination, or subsections of chapters on intelligence testing. You rarely saw anything about Hispanics or Asian Americans, and definitely not American Indians. I had people early in my career who said, “If you really want to devote your career to American or Alaska Indigenous peoples, why don’t you just become an anthropologist?” With a shocked face, he continued…and I had people say that. And I remember the social psychologist’s wife, she and I submitted a symposium proposal to the Eastern Psychological Association when they were going to meet in NYC and it was rejected. Now, here is this prominent social psychologist who was very much a feminist, and she was livid, because they said psychologists really wouldn’t be interested in American Indians, especially psychologists in NYC because ‘there were no American Indians.’ Then the suggestion was [to] submit this to an anthropology association. I wrote back and I said, “There is a substantial Mohawk population that lives in Brooklyn; there is a reservation just outside of NYC. You have all the tribes in NY state; how could you say something like this?”

Little did we know that in the field of anthropology, there was a branch that grew from the work of several that was called Culture and Personality. It started in the 20s/30s, and it just grew, and psychology wasn’t paying any attention to this! And then in the 50s/60s/70s, a field of psychological anthropology emerged and there were textbooks and courses on it, and here was psychology resisting going into cultural topics. And of course, now it’s a whole different story.

To make an author’s note here, it’s because of people like Dr. Trimble that we might see the inclusion we do today. Many paved the way for diversity and inclusion to be what it is and continues to be.

T: One of my proudest moments was when we realized that we were no longer going to be secluded. That was when APA established the first ad hoc committee on ethnic minority affairs (in the 70s); it subsequently led to the Committee on Ethnic and Cultural Affairs, which still exists, and you know the rest of the story. Two African American presidents of APA, etc.

PP: Wow – all of that, as you mentioned, was so long overdue and challenging. It sounds like there were so many encounters in the field that were very closed off to doing this kind of work.

T: Exactly, and those who wanted to, they just didn’t know where to start. They didn’t know what to do. It was a lot of education, a lot of discussions, a lot of conferences, a lot of symposiums and presenting at conferences, and it just slowly started to take off, and we were thrilled. We still talk about that. So back to the story about those two holy men, I think it was the third day, one of them said, “Let me try to understand something here, if somebody is not thinking well and has problems, you don’t invite spirits in to talk with you? You don’t have family members with you when you talk to that person, when you’re with that person? Do you always have to have this person talking? There are things that you do and should be doing to help this person heal. Why is it that you see this person in a strange place? Why is it that you don’t really know this person? Why is it that you only see this person for an hour a week?”

What the field of clinical counseling psychology does, does not make any sense to them in terms of the way they go about working with people with their traditions and perspectives. I’ve written about that; I’ve spent a lot of time with shamans – it’s not 15 minutes, it’s 24/7. And it’s not just you, and he, or she, and others – but the spirits are with you. And they’re invited in, and if you don’t get that notion of what spirituality really is, it’s just not going to work. What some of us are thrilled to see now is that in the field of clinical psychology is beginning to embrace the notion of what spirituality is and how it can influence peoples’ lives. Not from a religious perspective – this goes back to the notion of connectedness.

Dr. Trimble explained a time when an Elder asked for help in addressing social issues like obesity, drug and alcohol misuse, and suicide. As Dr. Trimble shared with me, the concepts of awareness, stress, and spirituality are much more connected than usually seen in a Western worldview.

T: [And the Elder said], “It’s very stressful.” And one of my colleagues said, “What does the word ‘stress’ mean to you in Yu’pik?” And they all turned to him and they were talking in their language and then said, “We don’t have a word for ‘stress.’ I’m just using the English word. In other words, we’ve never experienced this before and we don’t know how to deal with it.” So we started to talk about it and agreed that day that the Center for Alaska and Native Health Insurance would work with them to try to come up with ways to cope and strategize and deal and prevent these problems from happening. And that’s still ongoing.

Related to that conversation, one day we were sitting in the same room talking about suicide. And we knew that there had been many incidents of young people either attempting to take their lives or taking their lives, and it was tearing the people apart. And they were describing a story and we noticed that they weren’t using the word suicide. And then finally, one of my colleagues raised his hand and said, “Are you talking about suicide?” and this woman said, “We can’t say that word. We can’t say that word, because if we do, it manifests itself and it brings it about.” Another man spoke up and said, “This may sound very strange to you, but we do believe that if you’re going to go hunting, we actually give the animals names and then we call out their names and they come to us.” And he gave several other examples, and I’ve heard about this concept before but it’s just striking. If they wanted to put in a suicide prevention program, they couldn’t use the word ‘suicide’ – they had to call it something else. I learned a lot from them about awareness and [these concepts].

PP: There is an award in your name – the Joseph E. Trimble and Jewell Horvat Award – that is awarded each year to one graduate student and one senior-level contributor who are dedicated to and make “significant contributions to Native and Indigenous psychology.” I imagine this must be so rewarding to see how many others now contribute to this field and bring better recognition and inclusion of Native and Indigenous peoples. Can you tell us about what inspired this award?

T: I am totally honored and blown away, because I did not know that they were planning on doing this. And the award was set up by a colleague and friend named Joseph Horvat – he was the treasurer of APA’s Division 45. He apparently made a lot of money in investments and he always thought we had this really wonderful relationship and I learned second or thirdhand that he endowed Division 45 with a fund for this award. At first it was just my name, and really I just felt squeamish about it, and so [we added] Jewell. [She] was his mother [and an] American Indian from one of the tribes in New York State. The award is really a cool honor. Every once in a while, I actually get to meet recipients, Dr. Trimble said with so much excitement. I always thought that awards like this are given in names of people who are deceased so I felt really creepy about it, but I am just thrilled about it. I had nothing to do with it; I didn’t know it was even being contemplated.

PP: I’m sure the recipients were honored to meet you as well.

T: I guess so! Here’s the funny thing, I never, ever, ever thought I was going to get all these awards and get a gold medal from APA, etc. I had no idea. I guess it’s called perseverance and staying close to what you believe and know that it’s well and it’s worthwhile, and [have] people who support you and come with you…so it just stuns me sometimes. People say, “Do you know how many books you’ve written?” But it’s just kind of embarrassing to count things. In the past, if somebody asked me to do something, I usually said yes (if I could do it). What really matters to me, one of the many things that matters to me, is that when I publish something, it’s over. You know, I did it, I submitted it, and it’s received, and I have no knowledge of who reads it unless they contact me.

Many years ago, I was at a conference [and a] young lady comes up to me and introduces herself and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve always wanted to talk with you and I want to thank you.” And I said, ‘ok, what did I do?’ And she said, “I was a clinical doctoral student and I was very dissatisfied because I wasn’t getting any information about culture, about American Indians, and most importantly, how you provide clinical services for American Indians living in reservations. I wasn’t getting anything. And I was ready to quit. One day I was in the library, and I was looking at these books, and I saw this book titled, Counseling Across Cultures. Oh my goodness. There was something funny – that book was sticking out and that’s what drew my attention. So I pulled it off the shelf and opened up the table of contents and I saw your written chapter about providing counseling services for American Indians (or something like that). I sat down on the floor and I cried. I read the chapter right then and there, I checked the book out, and I read the chapters over and over again, and I decided that here is somebody who’s saying what I want to hear. If there was somebody out there, there must be others.” She decided to finish [her doctorate degree], and she did. That is so meaningful to me, I can’t tell you. Wow. But I would have never known that, and it’s like, think about the people that have influenced your life and influenced your career, and people who you really, really admire, and your desire to someday say ‘thank you.’

PP: It must be such an amazing feeling to know you’ve done this work because you’re so passionate about it. You didn’t do it for that recognition, but to have that as an added benefit and reward, it must feel so amazing to inspire continuous work for the very things that you’re also so passionate about. It’s really a gift that’s going to keep on giving.

T: Yeah, that’s it. Earlier on, I was told, “If you continue to do this work (what we’re [now] calling ethnicity in psychology), you’re never going to get tenure.” Well, not true. Now lots and lots of people are being hired, and we’re scaling tenure, etc. I look back, and say, ‘wow, I contributed to that!’ Culture occurs with just about everything. I did everything I could to weave it into my courses, etc.

Dr. Trimble recalled the time he took what would now be considered an independent study in his undergraduate years. He spent the semester with a professor who was an expert in British literature. Unexpectedly, the books she recommended were Jane Eyre and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

T: And then, I came across a series of correspondence between the caterpillar and Alice:

“The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

“Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself.”

“I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice, “”because I’m not myself, you see.”

“I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar. (Carroll, 1865)

As a major in Psychology, I started thinking about that conversation. And I remember putting the book down and looking out the window saying, “Who are you?” – asking myself that question. But then I got to another line, and this one I used a lot in my teachings. It started with “Curiouser and curiouser” and continued:

“I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”(Carroll, 1865)

She was giving me books that had a deep, profound psychological literature. It really stayed with me. She was feeding me what was written in British literature with material that helped me broaden my insights into what I wanted to study. I’ll never forget that. So I used those books in my classes and teachings.

PP: You mentioned in the article that your previous academic employer wrote for your retirement about your desire to be known as dedicated, passionate, and as a social justice advocate. I think it says so much about your character that you saw an area that people were closed off to and pursued it for the sake of social justice, for the sake of representing these people and helping these people. This made a new way not only for research, but for the field of psychology in general and for Native Americans, and without knowing all the things that it would bring you, you’ve really sought to help others. That’s a really wonderful thing.

T: At a class reunion a professor and mentor that I had as an undergraduate congratulated me and said, “Don’t forget, you have a responsibility and an obligation to pass along. Pass along what you know, what you’re doing.” I’ll never forget that. I always remind myself that that’s why I joined this profession – to pass along; to pass along the knowledge that you can do this.

PP: What for you is the thing that you’d like to most relay to the readership of The Peace Psychologist?

T: With a kind smile and glimmer in his eye, Dr. Trimble explained – Just what I said, what we were talking about. Because we don’t talk about it. Remember, this is Division 48 – it should have been Division 1. Why did it take so long for the profession to come together and honor this vitally, important world? Every division should have a subcomponent that focuses on this. There shouldn’t be a division without it. We say that about Division 45 – every division should be focusing on gender, ethnicity, race, culture (and some do). We shouldn’t need to exist because it’s permeated. The same with peace psychology, it should be permeated with the mission, goals, and practices of every division.

Also, “Curiouser and curiouser.” Just be curious! I thought back and reflected often on my career and I think it’s my curiosity that just kept me going. It took me on different tangents, but that was ok. In fact, I embrace curiosity. So that would be one of the things I would encourage is to be curious.

PP: Before we wrap up, I know readers are interested in learning more about your current research.

T: I don’t know if you know Jean Lau Chin, she passed away due to COVID. Around 2014, we were at a conference near San Antonio and [we had lunch together]. We were sitting by one of the canals and she said, “I’ve really become very concerned about leadership studies and the fact that leadership studies are not really focusing on leadership styles of different people and different cultures.” Inquisitively, Dr. Trimble continues, “why aren’t we looking at *that*?” I got so excited, and she said, “Let’s write a book.” So we, right then and there on that table, outlined the book that we published [in 2014]. It was titled Diversity in Leadership, where we explain that there have been leaders from every culture going back thousands of years that have different leadership styles – and they’re not necessarily the alpha male.

Around the same time, I was invited to do a Tedx Talk, and I focused my topic on culture and leadership. In the first slide, I say, ‘Say Goodbye to the Alpha Male.’ Dr. Trimble shared with me the same enthusiasm he had when speaking at that talk. And a lot of people weren’t happy with that, but that’s tough. So I started devoting a lot of attention to that subject, and I’ve written several things, and then Jean and I, about a year and a half ago, started this study where we developed this rather lengthy interview schedule and we had people from different countries around the world interview leaders. We had a book, we have a book contract, but then Jean sadly passed away. But we are going to finish the book.

Here is one of many cool things: She was on a Fulbright to Sydney, Australia a few years ago, and that was the same year I was at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and Jean was able to interview Aboriginal women leaders. Dr. Trimble shared this with such awe and excitement. And she interviewed some [Aboriginal] men. She was able to get psychologists from Iran to interview 31 women leaders, and it’s all done in person and has been translated, and the interviews that we have from other people from different countries are just absolutely fascinating. And that’s the book we are working on. I’m also working with Josephine Tan from Canada.

PP: It sounds really interesting and I love that it’s going to challenge so many stereotypes that exist right now too.

T: With a smile, Dr. Trimble answers me – Exactly.

I’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Trimble for his time and thoughtful insights for this interview, as well as for all of his years of dedication and service to the field of psychology. He has truly made and makes a difference in the lives of those around him.

Joseph E. Trimble

Comprehensive List of Awards and Accomplishments throughout Dr. Trimble’s Career:

Since 1972, he has continuously served as a member of numerous scientific review committees and research panels for the following federal agencies: NIAAA; NIDA; NIA; NIMH; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; NICHD; NCI; National Center for Research Resources, NIH; Risk, Prevention, and Health Behavior, NIH; Center for Substance Abuse Prevention; National Academy of Sciences; NSF; NIDA’s Subcommittee on Epidemiology and Prevention Research, Risk, Prevention: the Center for Scientific Review’s Health Behavior Initial Review Group; and NIDA’s Health Services Research Subcommittee. In March 2010, the National Institutes of Health and its Center for Scientific Review appointed him as a Distinguished Editorial Reviewer.

Dr. Trimble has held offices in the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology and the American Psychological Association (APA); he holds Fellow status in five divisions in the APA (Divisions 2, 9, 27, 45, and 48). He is past-President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues and a Council member for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). In 1991, he received a Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Contributions to the Development and Implementation of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Special Populations Research Programs. And, in 1994, he received a Lifetime Distinguished Career Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division 45 for his research and dedication to cross-cultural and ethnic psychology.

In 2001, Dr. Trimble received the Eleventh Annual Janet E. Helms Award for Mentoring and Scholarship in Professional Psychology at the Teachers College, Columbia University, 18th Annual Roundtable on Cross-Cultural Psychology and Education. In 2002, the Washington State Psychological Association awarded him the Distinguished Psychologist Award for the year. In 2004, he received the Peace and Social Justice Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division on Peace Psychology. In 2007, he received the Distinguished Elder Award from the National Multicultural Conference and Summit. And, in 2009, he received the Henry Tomes Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Psychology from the American Psychological Association’s Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests and the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues. Also, in 2009, he received the International Lifetime Achievement Award for Multicultural and Diversity Counseling awarded by the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. In 2012, the American Psychological Association named him the G. Stanley Hall/Harry Kirke Wolfe Senior Lecturer for the year.

In 2013, Dr. Trimble received The National Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award. This award is given to current or former academic faculty members who have inspired their students to “create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large.” He also received in 2013 the Francis J. Bonner, MD Award from the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, which recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of ethnic minority mental health. Last, and most recently, he received the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.


Carroll, L. (1865). Alice’s adventures in wonderland. Macmillan.

Natalie Davis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies (concentration in Organizational Administration) and a minor in Nonprofit Studies from George Mason University. She works full-time as a Research Initiatives Specialist at her alma mater, and is also a Research Writer for Pollack Peacebuilding Systems. Natalie is especially interested in studying international and intergroup conflict and the latest research pertaining to the value of diversity and shared perspectives.