David Elmes died June 4


Dr. David G. Elmes passed away on June 4, 2018, at Wellspring Village in Staunton from Alzheimer’s related complications.

David was born Feb. 15, 1942, in Worchester, Mass., to the late Ruth Adams Porterfield and Leslie Gordon Elmes. 

He is survived by his wife, Anne L. Elmes of Lexington; a son, Matt Elmes (Lani Hartshorn) of Richmond; daughter, Jenny Elmes; two grandsons, Marley Elmes of Lexington and Ethan Spencer of Richmond; sister, Chris Schlatzer (Bob); and nephews Karl, Kurt and Brant; sister-in-law, Beth Lawrence (Peter Buck); and niece Pam Moore; as well as his rescue babies, Bizzy and Sugar.

Dave grew up in Pennsylvania and Richmond, graduating from Douglas S. Freeman High School where he was a football standout and played the trumpet with the Richmond Orchestra.  His extreme work ethic was uncovered early on as he worked multiple jobs before and after school to assist his mother. Along the way he met and married the love of his life, Anne.  They were married for 54 and 9/10ths years. 

Dave was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Washington and Lee University, where he taught for 43 years. 

He earned undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia in experimental psychology, all in seven years, while supporting his young family.  He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude.

As an undergrad (before marriage) he lived with Charlie Dutkin where much Black Label was consumed as well as Charlie’s specialty - chili with beans and chunks of potatoes.

While at UVA he was invited into the Honors Program with an honors thesis still in use today, was in the ROTC, played on the IM Rugby Club and was a member of the illustrious Jefferson Society.

After joining the W&L faculty in 1967 he taught, among other subjects, the courses of History and Systems of Psychology and Applications of Psychological Sciences. He was also co-director of the Cognitive Science Program. He served as head of the department numerous times through the years.  He served on the Admissions Committee and for many years on the Athletic Committee, having a bleacher named in his honor in the stadium. He was the faculty adviser for numerous years for Phi Psi fraternity.

In addition to his time at W&L, Dave worked at the University of Michigan as a research associate at the Human Performance Center (1973-1974), at Hampden-Sydney College as an adjunct professor (1978), and as a Visiting Fellow of University College of the University of Oxford (1987).

He co-authored two widely adopted textbooks that went into several editions: "Experimental Psychology: Understanding Psychological Research" (2005) and "Research Methods in Psychology" (2006). (One of his co-authors on both books was his former student H.L. Roediger III '69.) He edited other academic texts as well.

Dave belonged to both honor societies, Sigma Xi and Phi Sigma.

In addition, Dave and his undergraduate students published numerous articles concerning learning and memory in both human and sub-human animals. He was also the consulting editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition for several years. He focused his most recent research on olfactory images and attributions of memory failure.

Dave was a Fellow of the American Psychological Society and a past president of the Council on Undergraduate Research. He had belonged to the Virginia Psychological Association and was a Fellow of the Virginia Academy of Science, which he served as secretary and president of the psychology section. He was also a Fellow in the Academy of Malt Scotch Whiskey.

Dr. Elmes took great pride in bringing out and developing the uniqueness of one’s psychological path.  He helped develop the neuroscience major at Washington and Lee University.  He was extremely proud of the relationship he built with his students and the development of a program that brought back former students serving in nontraditional roles in the psychology field.  He regaled students with his sarcastic wit as well as being an early champion for admitting women into Washington and Lee, knowing this would bring great honor to the psychology department and improve Washington and Lee as a whole. 

As a young professional in Lexington, David spent many years playing on the community’s first desegregated basketball team and then celebrating their wins and losses at the White Column Inn.  Dave also enjoyed playing bridge with other Washington and Lee couples.  He attended weekly meetings of Applied Probability for over 30 years and never left a meeting without “breaking even.” 

He was an avid participant in a fantasy football league and never failed to cheer on his Washington Redskins even when it wasn’t easy.  He was always there to encourage his children at lacrosse games, tuba concerts, cross country matches, dance performances, and champion his son’s band, Big Barn Burning, as they played in clubs in Richmond and all over the USA. 

After retirement he maintained many friendships through the Washington and Lee Geezer’s Clubs.  As well, retirement provided him more time for gardening, cooking exotic and unusual foods, fishing from the Kitty Hawk Pier in his beloved Outer Banks and enjoying many summer beverages along the way.  He used his time wisely teaching Marley his love of fly fishing and Palms hamburgers. In addition, an early trip to Colorado uncovered his love of train trips thus he and Anne set off on many train adventures after retirement.

Among the many accolades bestowed upon him, including an endowed professorship in his honor at Washington and Lee, The Elmes Pathfinder Prize at Washington and Lee was a great source of pride for Dave.  The prize recognizes a student who has shown extraordinary promise in psychological science or in the application of psychological science in the professions through outstanding scholarship in Basic or Applied Psychology.  The Elmes Pathfinder Prize was established in 2007.  It derives from the Elmes Fund, a permanently endowed fund created by the many alumni, colleagues and friends who benefited from Elmes’ commitment to learning during his career as a scientist, teacher and mentor at Washington and Lee University. 

Dave Elmes is also remembered at W&L with a professorship. The Elmes, John and Winfrey Term Professorship, created by an anonymous trustee and his wife, honors Dave (along with the late Lew John ’58, Professor of Politics, and John C. Winfrey, Professor of Economics Emeritus).

Dave’s family gathered with friends at David and Anne’s home in Lexington on June 7 and June 8 to share memories and have a few beverages.

On June 30, from 5 to 8 p.m., the family invites you to the Washington and Lee University Hotchkiss Alumni House for a casual, drop in, service-free life celebration and toast to Dave.

Enjoy camaraderie, food and drink.

In lieu of flowers and in his honor, Dave requested that you consider donations to the Dr. David G. Elmes Pathfinder Prize Fund at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450, The Mid- Atlantic Pug Rescue, 6214 Bud Huey Road, Waxhaw, NC 28173 or the International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation, 6144 Clark Center Ave., Sarasota, FL 34238.


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