Professor’s suicide shocks staff, former and current students

In Campus News, News

Driving on the freeway, a student saw her professor driving in the car beside her. At her next session with him, she told him that she saw him on the freeway. His response: “You should have honked and waved.”

Any death involving a member of the Cal State Fullerton community has an impact on the staff and students.

Ian J. Scofield, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, died Sept. 27.

The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner confirmed Scofield’s cause of death was suicide.

Jack Mearns, professor and chair of the Psychology Department, said he did not know Scofield personally, but knew he was a very bright man who was able to teach a variety of classes.

“I am very sad to hear that he died and that it was to a suicide,” said Mearns.

Over the past week, Mearns visited the professor’s classes along with representatives from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). He wanted to make sure everyone knew of Scofield’s death and that campus resources were available for support.

“Clearly, it is very disruptive to have one’s professor not be able to complete the semester,” Mearns said. “Added to that is the shock of finding out that he had died.”

Mearns has arranged for substitute faculty member to complete Scofield’s classes. He added that he wants to be sure that the late professor’s students have the best educational experience they can under the circumstances.

Cristina Villa, a student of Scofield’s and a psychology major, took his research and methods class during the spring 2011 semester. Villa said Scofield was always smiling and had a good personality.

“He was very knowledgeable and he cared a lot about his students because he always made it a point to remember your name,” said Villa.

As a professor, Villa said Scofield always talked about current events and would tie them into the class and the student’s lives.

“His style of teaching was very interactive,” Villa said. “He always wanted his class to participate and always did group projects.”

Like most students, Villa was shocked to hear of his cause of death. She said he did not disclose information about his personal life, but spoke fondly of his family back home in England.

Villa added that Scofield enjoyed having students from abroad and would make a game of guessing their nationality based on their accent. Being from England, Villa said he seemed to relate to others from foreign countries.

Scofield’s colleagues described him as someone who kept to himself and was very quiet.

Professors and students confirmed that Scofield cancelled class one week because he said he was sick. Many started to question if he had an illness and if he was OK.

His cause of death was also a shock to faculty and students. Faculty members said there weren’t any signs to make them think he would hurt himself.

Other professors said there are multiple resources available for anyone contemplating suicide.

Students and faculty are encouraged to visit the Student Health and Counseling Center where they can get help. CAPS can be reached at (657) 278-3040.

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  • Dr Ian Scofield was my cousin. It has been lovely to have already made contact with many people who knew him and held him in high regard. Our family will be organizing two services for him – a cremation service in California and a memorial service (probably early next year) in London.
    My contact details can be found by clicking on “email” on the first page of my website – please email me if you would like me to send you details of the services as they come through.

  • Dear Amanda,

    My name is LayTuan Tan and I’m the Director of the International Education & Exchange Office which assists visiting faculty and research scholars. I have been helping Dr Scofield for the past few years when he would stop by to make sure his immigration paperwork was in order. I remember that he was always very organized and planned ahead – those are skills that I’m sure he passed on to his students who obviously enjoyed his teaching.
    I am so shocked and saddened by his passing. I offer my deepest condolences to you and his family. Please let me know the details of the service in California in remembrance of your wonderful cousin and respected colleague at Cal State Fullerton.
    Please let me know how I can help in any way.

    With best regards,

  • Thanks LayTuan for your kind thoughts and for sharing your memories.
    As soon as they are available I will post details of the service in California here.

  • Maureen Lidbury

    Dr Ian Scofield was my nephew – my late sister’s son. I should like to thank you all so much for the kind words that Ian’s friends and colleagues have sent through to my famiily via my niece Amanda Lillywhite. As you can imagine my family are devasted and shocked by Ian’s death, i can hardly write how i am feeling right now. Ian was dearly loved by his parents, he was their world. I stayed with him often at my sister’s and brother in laws home when my own 2 son’s were young, he was always very kind to them and spent lots of time playing ‘Atari’ games with them, followed by some football in the garden. I knew Ian to be a very kind person. In his early teenage years he often set up his own individual local marathon to raise money for charity. I was hoping to come out to be at Ian’s cremation in L.A. but feel I am not able to cope with doing this, but you may know we shall be having our own family memorial service for him at his home town in London. Many thanks to you all for holding a service for Ian, it must have been terribly hard for you all to come to terms with what has happened.

    Kind regards to you all.

    Maureen Lidbury

  • Michelle

    I had Dr. Scofield as a professor for Biopsych lecture and lab. I just heard about his death reccently and was truly shocked. I did not know him that well but he was a kind and understanding professor that had so much knowledge to share. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Details for Ian Scofield’s funeral are as follows:
    FUNERAL SERVICE – Fr. Pederson Officiating
    Thursday, November 15, 2012
    Service will start at 6:00 PM
    McKenzie Mortuary Chapel
    3843 E Anaheim Street
    Long Beach, CA 90804
    The Funeral Service will conclude at approximately 6:45PM
    The chapel will stay open until 8:00 PM for guests to visit
    All of Ian’s friends are colleagues are welcome to attend. Please pass on this information to anyone who may need it.

    Unfortunately our family will be unable to be at the California service but will be having a service for Ian in London sometime early next year. Will post details of this. We would be grateful if anyone who attends the California service would let us know how it goes.

  • Michelle – thank you for your lovely message.

  • For anyone planning to attend Ian’s service on 15th November.

    We are organizing a toast before the service starts and it would be helpful to have an idea of how many people will attend (so that we can make sure that there are enough glasses).

    You are welcome to contact me at [email protected] to let me know that you will be going so that I can give the organizers a rough idea of numbers (I won’t pass on names).

  • I learned just yesterday of Ian’s tragic death. (His PhD research advisor, George Sperling, told me; I had no idea.) Words don’t come easy at the moment: I’m
    shocked and saddened.

    I lost touch with Ian over the last three years, but I saw him regularly if infrequently during the six years he was a PhD student at UC Irvine. He was quiet and reserved
    –guarded, I often felt–and our friendship developed slowly; but we soon identified
    a shared interest in The Beatles, and that often was our topic of conversation.

    In time I came to know Ian as witty and engaging, quick on the uptake, with a
    genuine interest in undergraduate students with whom he came in contact as a teaching assistant in the School of Social Sciences. Ian was kind, nice, in ways
    that are uncommon today and thus noticeable. He was always looking for new
    and better ways to meet his instructional support commitment to the School; and
    then he graduated and began teaching at Cal State Fullerton … that was three
    years ago.

    It is inconceivable to me that Ian took his own life, and how I wish I had been
    able to speak with him at least one more time, as we did, after he left UCI. My
    heart goes out to Ian’s family–Amanda, Maureen and others–and those, like me,
    who knew him for a brief season and must now move forward with and in his

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