NORMAN — Dr. Norbert John “Jack” Kanak passed from this world on Oct. 16, 2013, in Norman at the age of 76. He was born Nov. 26, 1936, the youngest of eight children, to Joseph and Anna Faimon Kanak in Atwood, Kan.
Dr. Kanak earned a B.A. in sociology with minors in psychology and philosophy in 1961 from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kan. He earned a Master of Science in 1964 and a Ph.D. in 1967, both in experimental psychology from Saint Louis University. In August of 1967 he accepted a position as a psychology professor at the University of Oklahoma. In 1969, he became chairman of the Psychology Department serving for a total of 14 years and led the department’s graduate program to national research recognition.
His early career research was on learning and memory, and later he focused on the influences of culture on learning and education. As a professor, Dr. Kanak mentored 15 doctoral dissertations and 19 master’s theses. Shortly after retiring in 1998 as professor emeritus, he was asked to return to teach his award-winning course, “Prejudice and the Civil Rights Movement,” through the Spring of 2011.
During his career, Dr. Kanak was a member of the American Psychology Society, Society of Sigma Xi, Psychonomic Society, Midwest Psychology Association, and the Southwestern Psychology Association. While at the University of Oklahoma, he received the Oklahoma Psychological Association Leadership Award, “Distinguished AMOCO Foundation Good Teaching Award Administrative Service Citation”, the Rev. Martin Luther King Big Eight Student Leaders Award, and University of Oklahoma Black Student Association Best Professor Award. He was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Listed in Birnbach’s College Book, as “Best Professor,” Dr. Kanak is one of only seven to be so named. His name is listed on the Wall of Tolerance, Civil Rights Memorial Center, Montgomery, Ala.
In 1961, Dr. Kanak, lovingly known to his family and friends as Jack, married Mary Ellen Hayob in Salisbury, Mo. and had two children, Katharine Marie Kanak and Carlton Alexander Kanak.
In 1979, he married Ellen Nease Cobb in Chickasha and joined with her children, Stephen Cobb and Richard Cobb.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents; four brothers, Antone, Joseph Jr., Bernard and Francis; and two sisters, Sr. Margaret Ann OSF, and Margaret.
He is survived by his wife, Ellen; four children, Katharine (husband Jerry Straka), Carlton Alexander, Stephen Cobb (wife Susan) and Richard Cobb (wife Inger); six grandchildren, Jason, Jonathon and Joshua Cobb, and Jordan, Stockton and Duncan Cobb; sister, Lucy O’Brien; and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be 1 p.m. Monday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church. Immediately following visitation, Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Visitation in Atwood, Kan. will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at Baalmann Mortuary with Rosary to follow at 8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Burial will be at Mount Calvary Cemetery.
Jack was very compassionate about the well-being and civil rights of all people. An example of this was witnessed by his actions of counseling the families and friends of victims of the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Jack farmed during much of his youth and enjoyed returning home to Kansas annually for wheat harvest as much as possible. Later in life Jack coached youth soccer, was a St. Louis Cardinal fan, raised hybrid tea roses and pine trees, enjoyed singing and music, especially Frank Sinatra and Gregorian Chant. He also was a member of the Knights of Columbus.
At the request of the family, memorials and contributions can be made to Catholic Charities or the American Cancer Society.
Services for Dr. Kanak have been entrusted to the care of Primrose Funeral Service, primrosefuneralservice.com and Baalmann Mortuary, ballmannmortuary.com.