ACADEMIC RAGS TO RICHES
by Shane Hayes
I had some colorful friends in high school. Zig, as we called him then, came to be known as Dr. Daniel J. Ziegler, Ph. D., Former Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and currently Professor Emeritus, Psychology, Villanova University. No one would have guessed it.
In West Catholic's year book he was the least active guy in the class. No activity of any kind was listed for his four years at West. Not rifle club, not track, not interclass sports, nothing. Detention was apparently not regarded as an activity for purposes of the yearbook, because Dan had lots of that. And looking back he knows he earned it.
At one midwinter detention a Christian Brother, the Prefect of Discipline, gave Dan the choice of sweeping the heated hallway or polishing a door knob outside in a frigid gale-force wind. With no hesitation Dan chose to brave the elements. He walked outside, paused by the doorknob, then kept walking to the subway and spent the afternoon with his girlfriend. His father got a call from the principal's office saying, "If Dan is not here within two hours he'll be expelled. Not suspended, expelled!" He got back within two hours, but it was that close.
He had mediocre grades; almost never did homework. Spent every free minute out of school chasing girls (he caught up with a beauty when he was 16 and the chasing ended). He suspects he may have set a school record by attending Discipline Detention virtually every day of his senior year.
You would not have said at graduation that he was full of promise.
When he signed up at Villanova University he was going to major in business because he thought that was the easiest course. A school official asked some probing questions to see if there was anything Dan was interested in. He unearthed the germ of an interest in psychology. That was a turning point. Dan became a psych major. His grades improved freshman and sophomore year, and when he could concentrate on psychology subjects junior and senior year, he became a straight-A student.
After he got his Master's he was hired to teach psychology at Villanova while he earned his Ph. D. at Temple. He worked his way up to Chairman of Villanova's Psychology Dept, a post he held for 19 years. Then he was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, a job he held for 10 years and filled with distinction.
While he was teaching he had his own practice as a counseling psychologist (a shrink). He wrote impressive articles in academic journals, often about the cognitive components of stress. And he had a lucrative career as a nationally known, speaker hired by corporations to inspire their employees and counsel them on stress management.
Along the way he co-authored a textbook entitled Personality Theories which was published by McGraw-Hill in 1976. It sold so well that they published a second edition in 1981-- and then a third in 1992. It was also translated into Russian -- and the Russian edition is still in use, long after Dan retired from teaching and writing.
A few years ago the Villanova Psychology Department began to confer what is known as the Daniel J. Ziegler Award for high achievement by a psychology professor. Dan got the first Daniel J. Ziegler Award! I find that remarkable. The Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel never won a Nobel Prize. Vince Lombardi never won a Lombardi Trophy. But Dan Ziegler won the Dan Ziegler Award. Several lesser mortals have received it since Dan did.
Not bad for a kid who in high school excelled at nothing but detention.