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.