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In Memoriam: James L. Outtz 1947-2016

3/30/2016-

by SIOP Administrative Office

James L. Outtz, SIOP’s President-Elect, whose nearly 40-year career was focused on advancing and promoting social justice and equal rights and who embodied the ideals of a scientist-practitioner, passed away on March 26 after a 4-year battle with cancer.

Highly respected in the field of I-O, he was a Fellow in SIOP, the American Psychological Association (APA), and American Educational Research Association (AERA).

He served these professional associations in multiple capacities. Within SIOP his service included Instructional and Educational Officer; chair of the M. Scott Meyers Award Committee, and membership on various committees including Distinguished Professional Contributions Award Committee; Ad Hoc Committee On Revision of the SIOP Principles; Program Committee; External Affairs Committee; the Diversity Committee; and most recently the Task Force on Contemporary Selection Practice Recommendations to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

He rejoined the Executive Board in 2015, the same year he became president-elect. He was scheduled to become SIOP’s president next month at the annual conference in Anaheim.

“Jim Outtz's untimely passing is a profound loss for SIOP and for our profession. I had known about Jim for many years based on his outstanding reputation, but I had only gotten to know him personally since he became SIOP president-elect last year, and we began to work together on the Executive Board. I came to know Jim as a dedicated, passionate, and conscientious industrial and organizational psychologist and as a fine man. I saw him invest his passion and desire to have a positive impact as he prepared to assume the role of SIOP president. He would have excelled and he will be missed,” said SIOP President Steve Kozlowski.

He leaves his wife of 43 years, Janice Hamilton Outtz; daughter, Dr. Hasina Outtz Reed (Justin); granddaughter, Elle Hamilton Outtz Reed; and sister, Zerita Greer.

Executive Director Dave Nershi said a memorial service for Dr. Outtz will be held at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 14 in Room 207 D of the Anaheim Convention Center (located next door to the Hilton Anaheim). It is being organized by Shelly Zedeck and Wayne Cascio. SIOP members are invited and encouraged to attend.

Dr. Outtz earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1976 and quickly became a leading researcher, practitioner, and consultant in the areas of staffing, employment discrimination, employment-test design and implementation, and legal issues pertaining to employment.  His work significantly influenced best practices in reducing obstacles to equal employment opportunity. 

In 1990, he founded Outtz and Associates, a Washington, DC-based firm that specializes in developing staffing systems that focus simultaneously on the validity of selection procedures, while enhancing opportunities for workforce diversity and the inclusion of minorities and women. 

He wrote about, researched, and focused his practice on minimizing adverse impact through alternative approaches to selection.

“I had the privilege of working with Jim on a variety of SIOP presentations, committees, and book chapters. He made us think about employee selection in unique ways, particularly as it relates to whether traditional approaches to measurement were ‘good enough’.  Most recently, he was instrumental in the development of a partnership between SIOP and EEOC,” said Eric Dunleavy of DCI Consulting Group in Washington, DC.

“He stressed evaluating and conducting research with a critical eye, thinking analytically about exactly what research tells, and being very careful in articulating what we know and what we don’t know.  He was obviously a brilliant I-O psychologist and deeply committed to the field and the people in it,” Dunleavy added.

Sheldon Zedeck, formerly of the University of California-Berkley and a past SIOP president, was one of Dr. Outtz’s closest friends and worked with him on several projects. “Of special note, and related to his efforts to enhance the practice of employment selection and advancement, was his editorship of the 2010 SIOP Frontiers volume, Adverse Impact: Implications for Organizational Staffing and High-Stakes Selection.  This volume combined scientific research in personnel selection with professional-practice issues, consistent with a scientist-practitioner approach to the study of those issues,” he said.

Dr. Outtz’s expertise made him a highly sought-after legal-compliance consultant and testifying expert. He represented plaintiffs as well as defendants in cases that involved some of the most prominent corporations in America and some of the most visible public-sector jurisdictions. He was often retained to work on consent decrees with experts and lawyers from all sides of an issue, as well as to advise courts. 

He also had extensive experience working with the American Psychological Association on behalf of SIOP and serving on APA’s Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment.  Most recently, he served as a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Certification Commission, along with Sheldon Zedeck and Commission Chair Wayne Cascio.

“I had the good fortune of working with Jim both as part of SHRM Certification where he was one of our most active Commissioners and as part of the SIOP Executive Board,” said Alex Alonso, Senior Vice President for Knowledge Development at SHRM.  “He was absolutely instrumental in helping generate the vision for the most innovative certification exams in HR. His concepts are the foundation for our strategic vision for SHRM Certification moving forward. As the SIOP president-elect, Jim's commitment to science-to-practice translation as well as using best I-O practices to affect societal change was what most impressed me,” he added. 

Students gravitated to Dr. Outtz, who served as a mentor, exemplified in part by his participation in the SIOP Annual Conference, which included master tutorials, preconference workshops, panel discussions, symposia, and debates.

His support for students is seen in his creation of the James L. Outtz Grant for Student Research on Diversity, awarded to a graduate student who has successfully defended, but not yet conducted, a diversity-related research proposal.

He greatly enjoyed attending SIOP conferences where he had many friends. In addition to his professional accomplishments, it was the personal relationships that resonated with many members.

“I have a vivid memory of approaching him in a hotel lobby at a SIOP conference a decade or so ago as a new practitioner and introducing myself. I told him I found his work fascinating and asked if he’d be willing to share his career story with me. He smiled and told me to pull up a chair and ask away,” recalled Dunleavy.

Art Gutman, retired senior consultant at DCI Consulting, had a special memory. “Jim was so approachable. I remember at a SIOP Conference in Chicago a few years back when my about-to-be 4- year-old daughter, Jennie, and I were coming off an elevator when we ran into Jim. I told her I wanted her to meet a great man. She reached up to him and asked if she could hug him. Jim picked her up and gave her this very warm hug as Jennie kissed him. A few moments later, she said he was one of the kindest people she had ever met. I agreed. He was brilliant, impactful, a great contributor, a great friend, and a loving person.”

“I never met a man who cared more about driving change through great science,” said Alonso. “He was a wonderful sounding board, a thoughtful advisor, and, simply put, the most earnest colleague. Jim always pulled me aside and thanked me for listening.

“I always told him I'd be a fool to ignore his sage advice. Rarely do you find someone who offers such wisdom and passion about effecting change. In just 2 short years, Jim changed my organization, my work, and my life. I will be ever grateful and miss him dearly,” Alonso added.

Dr. Outtz was looking forward to being installed as SIOP’s president next month. Sadly, that will not happen. However, he leaves a legacy that will be fondly remembered by his many colleagues and friends for his outstanding contributions to I-O and SIOP.