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Frank, We Hardly Knew Ye: Some Frank Landy Stories

Jim Farr, Rick Jacobs, and Kevin Murphy
The Pennsylvania State University

One of the giants of our field, Frank Landy, passed away on January 12, 2010. His obituary appears in the New York Times (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=frank-landy&pid=138550515), and his eulogy appears in another paper in this issue. We thought it would be in keeping with the memory of our friend and colleague to supplement the standard obituaries with a few “Frank Landy” stories. Frank was a larger than life character, and just about everyone out there who knew Frank has a collection of “Frank Landy” stories. We share a few of these below from our over 100 years of collective experiences with Frank. That’s right, each of us has 30+ years of history with Frank, and all three of us wish there were more.

Frank Landy was once described as the only person in America who looked forward to Internal Revenue Service audits. It is actually an accurate description. His love for research, data collection, analysis, debate, and a pure desire to win made him the perfect person to do battle with IRS auditors. Frank had a passion for everything he did, even his “meetings” with the IRS. When I (RRJ) had the pleasure of meeting with an auditor in State College, PA back in the 1980s, the auditor looked at my W2 from our little company, Landy, Jacobs, and Associates, and she asked, “Is the Landy, Frank Landy?” When the answer was yes, the auditor looked worried. She had been one of Frank’s auditors, and I could tell she was wondering if I might have been coached by Frank. JLF adds: What the local IRS auditors did not know was that one of Frank’s brothers-in-law was a middle-level IRS manager in another region of the country who provided Frank with the gist of recent internal IRS memos and decisions regarding current interpretations of tax law. One morning Frank proudly walked into my office and announced that his scheduled meeting with an IRS agent that morning had been cancelled by the agent who reported “having a severe headache.” He was very pleased. Frank also was a world traveler who visited many countries. He was sure to have an I-O-related purpose for his trips so they became, at least in his mind, deductible expenses, sometimes resulting in more visits to see the IRS. We often kidded him that deducting the GDP of each country he visited was likely to raise red flags about his tax return.

Frank’s love for research was obvious to everyone who talked with him. His particular passion was combining ideas and constructs from diverse fields. He published a paper describing an “opponent process” theory of job satisfaction. None of us is completely convinced he really cared much about job satisfaction; he just seemed to have a great deal of fun incorporating a concept from research on visual acuity (where opponent process models are sometimes used) into I-O psychology. But he would no doubt be pleased that the 26 articles and chapters that have cited this Journal of Applied Psychology-published paper appear in almost 20 different journals and annual volumes across diverse scholarly fields. We have to secretly wonder if he was more interested in the concept of opponent processes and simply searched for a topic area that might allow him to use it.

The article that likely caused Frank and me (JLF) to be roundly cursed by several generations of I-O graduate students (Landy & Farr, 1980) came close to being accepted for publication by two journals. We submitted the manuscript to Psychological Bulletin and about 6 months later it was rejected by the editor, Richard Herrnstein, on the basis of a single review. Arguing that it was not reasonable to reject an article on the basis of one review (Herrnstein had anticipated our reaction and stated in his editorial letter that it was “difficult to obtain reviews of topics in industrial psychology”), we requested that he reconsider his decision and seek additional reviews (while recognizing the irony of a paper reviewing performance-rating research being rejected by one rating). Hearing not a word from Herrnstein for about 4 months, we revised the paper and submitted it to Organizational Behavior and Human Performance. Several months after that submission, we received a letter from Herrnstein at Psychological Bulletin stating that he had obtained another review of our original manuscript and would accept the paper if we revised it in accord with several of the points made by the second reviewer. Ooooppppssssss!! We quickly wrote (ah, those “slow” days before e-mail!) Jim Naylor, editor of OBHP, and explained the situation to him, while requesting that our submission to his journal be withdrawn and profusely apologizing. We received a letter back from Naylor, noting that he had received our request while he was in the process of drafting an encouraging revise-and-resubmit editorial decision for our manuscript. He admonished us for wasting both his and his reviewers’ time but noted that the editorial procedures at Psychological Bulletin at that time were well known to be chaotic among other journal editors. Frank used this story many times to tell Penn State graduate students to argue for their ideas and papers and to persist with manuscript submissions following initial “bad news.” The 500+ citations that this paper has received over 30 years validates his advice.

His love for research was complemented by his desire to help others improve their research skills. Frank was responsible for my first book (KRM). He convinced me that I could write a textbook that would change the way undergraduates understood testing and measurement. Concerned that I was a pretty junior assistant professor at the time, he saddled me with an assortment of senior co-authors who, for a variety of reasons, did not work out. This dragged out the process of writing the book by several years! In the end, Frank had to work a lot harder as an editor than he had ever bargained for, but his relentless stream of input, suggestions, and criticisms taught me how to write for an audience of undergraduates.

His stamp on our field is substantial and permanent. Frank managed to do a lot more than most in any given year, and in the 40+ years he worked as an industrial psychologist he amassed a record that few can match. He retired professor emeritus from Penn State, and he was a visiting faculty member at prestigious universities including UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Colorado, City University of New York, and Griffith University in Queensland. He was founding editor of Human Performance and twice associate editor of Journal of Applied Psychology. He was a Fulbright Scholar and a Fellow in multiple divisions of APA. He was our SIOP president in 1989. Frank also testified before congress on mandatory retirement, influenced EEOC law through his committee work and his courtroom testimony, and was president of a very successful consulting firm. He published broadly and often with so many of his papers winding up in our best journals. He wrote influential textbooks in I-O psychology, and he published books of readings on performance measurement and employment discrimination. He delivered invited addresses literally around the world. On several occasions I (RRJ) had to follow Frank to the podium, and it was always a tough task. Once in England I realized the audience was still buzzing from what Frank had said, and I started my talk with this little story. Following Frank Landy is a lot like being in a parade and walking behind the mounted color guard. Everyone is in awe as the horses pass with the flags flying, but if you are walking right after them you are never sure if you should just be proud and salute or watch where you are stepping. The audience got very quiet until they heard Frank laughing out loud. At least I had their attention. Frank never ceased to amaze me with how he could capture an audience. Frank liked to use the word “spectacular.” He used it a lot. It is a great way to describe his career.

The world of I-O psychology has lost a major player, and we have lost our very dear friend. We miss you Frank.