Bob L. Atkison (Dr. Bob) Clinical Child Psychologist, 74, passed away January 13, 2012. Preceded in death by father Robert Atkison, mother Sylvia Pease, sister Jeanie Owen Harris, brother John Atkison, and granddaughter Kelsey Atkison. Survivors: wife of 56 years Virginia; daughters Ginny Hall (Matt) and Teri Sommer (Jim); grandchildren: Caity Hall, Emma Jane Hall, Jamon Sommer, and Lenzie Sommer; sister Betty Atkison Lily (Dale), and brother Bruce John Harris; and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorial to be held Saturday, January 28, 2012 at Culbertson-Smith Mortuary 115 S. Seneca at 2:00 p.m. Friends and family gathering to follow. In lieu of flowers, family requests donations be sent to Wichita Children’s Home 810 N. Holyoke 67208.
Bob was born to Robert and Sylvia May 10, 1937 in Fresno, California. His family had traveled to California during the Dust Bowl. He grew up on a farm. The family moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1950. There he would meet and eventually marry Virginia Whitley. They met in junior high school and began dating upon high school graduation. Their wedding was in June of 1955 when Bob was 18 and Virginia 19. At that time, Bob was a Lab Technician at Muskogee General Hospital, plus a Soil Tester while attending Junior College.
Bob and Virginia moved to Houston Texas in 1955. Bob entered Baylor University College of Medicine with the intention of receiving a degree in Chemistry, when he became intrigued with the upcoming and growing field of Psychology. He went on to receive his BS, MS, and PhD at University of Houston.
Bob began Interning at Baylor and Houston State Psychiatric Institute the summer of 1960 through August of the following year. During that time, February 26, 1961, Bob and Virginia welcomed their first child, Ginny Lorraine. He continued on at these establishments through August of 1964 where he was a member of the Junior Staff and he engaged in clinical work as well as supervision of students. This time saw the birth of Bob and Virginia’s second child, Teri Diane, born December 27, 1963.
The family moved to Wichita, Kansas in the fall of 1964, with Bob having secured a Clinical Psychologist position at Wichita Guidance Center. Here he was able to do clinical work with children and families and consultation in schools. This began a lifelong career of advocating for children. He maintained his services in this capacity until the fall of 1967.
An opportunity arose for Bob to work at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. Bob and Virginia moved their family there at the end of 1967. Bob held the position of Chief Clinical Child Psychologist from that time until the fall of 1970. He initially was an Instructor, and then became Assistant Professor in the summer of 1969 until the end of 1970. Both of these positions encompassed Administrative, Clinical, Teaching, and Research duties.
Having maintained ties to Wichita, Bob was offered a position at Sedgwick County Department of Mental Health. The family returned to Wichita in the fall of 1970. Bob, for the first two years, worked as a Staff Psychologist. During that time he established Juvenile Court Clinic and consulted with Wichita State University Counseling Center. In November of 1972 he became Chief Psychologist. A position he would hold until the fall of 1978. During this time he assumed many roles: Coordinator of Consultation and Education, Coordinator of Day Hospital, Director of Intern Program, Consultant to Alcohol Programs, Consultant to Drug Programs. He, also, developed numerous programs: Set up County Wide Emergency Services, Wrote Drug Treatment Grant, Helped set up Drug Treatment Program, and Established Competency Evaluations for District Court.
Following his time at Sedgwick County Department of Mental Health, Bob returned to the Wichita Guidance Center. Initially he was the Assistant Director (1978-1981). In January of 1982, he became the Director. A position he held until the summer of 1986.
Bob returned to Sedgwick County Department of Mental Health in May of 1987 as a Senior Clinical Psychologist and Consultant.
Bob, then, did another stint at Wichita Guidance Center from fall of 1988 to early 1992 as a Staff Psychologist. He, too, was Co-Director Local CASSP Project.
The spring of 1992 through the summer of 1996 provided another great job opportunity. Bob became a part of Salvation Army-Wichita. He was hired on as Director of Social Services where he was responsible for: Level 5 residential, Secure Care, Foster Care, Family Preservation, Homeless Services and Emergency Assistance. Then, in fall of 1993 through May of 1996 he became Director of Community Services.
May of 1997 through May of 2003, Bob worked at Prison Health Services in Hutchinson. He worked as a Staff Psychologist prior to being promoted to Clinical Supervisor.
Ill health forced Bob into an early retirement at the end of 2003. His whole career had been impassioned with his desire to help kids. His many positions allowed him the opportunity to work with various agencies with similar goals. He often corroborated with Wichita Children’s Home in order to provide immediate assistance to those children necessitating their services. Bob worked endlessly to empower the Underdog and speak on their behalf.
While his passion fueled his advocacy, his same drive to live life to the fullest was evident in his daily living. His family of friends could speak to his ceaseless quest for knowledge. He traveled every continent many times over, if not physically, through his library of books. Not only did he know and understand the various cultures, he was adept at deciphering the accompanying language. He had vast book collections of multiple languages and an understanding of each. He, too, had an appreciation for the multiple religions. While he didn’t subscribe to a particular denomination, he enjoyed the history of how every one of them came into being. Bob embodied human spirituality in his deep convictions and acceptance of all of us. Not despite of our flaws, but because of them.
Bob consistently tried to motivate all who crossed his path. This took the shape of asking pertinent thought-provoking questions, needling to get a rise, his one-of-a-kind sense of humor (in that it was funny to him), and/or taking his “Motivatee” straight to the edge (and them cursing him the whole way back again). Sooner or later, however, his earnest efforts were acknowledged/recognized as genuine interest and compassionate caring as none other.
Bob was a devoted family man. It was important to him to be a part of his Grandchildren’s lives. He spent quality time with each and was able to ascertain their strengths early on. He encouraged them, and their parents, to pursue various avenues to facilitate growth in these areas. As his Grandchildren grew and came into their own persons, it was amazing to see Bob’s influence on that process. Whether it was through shared attributes or interests, a part of Bob exists in them. They all share a love of reading. They all, too, fight for the Underdog and do their best to right the injustices they witness. And, Bob is evident in traits that have manifested singly and/or collectively in each: intelligence, intuitiveness, music, ability to read people, imagination, creative writing, purity of heart, humor, math, science, religions, poetry, art, philosophy, and language (to name a few). During his time in the hospital Bob stated, “I wanted to get to know my Grandkids, and I have done that.” He said to Virginia, “We had a good run, I had fun.”
And to Bob, wherever this next chapter may take you, we return to you your motto, continue to “Have fun!!!” We love, and miss, you!!! XOX