Former Duke Provost William Bevan Dies

Psychologist founded famed Talent Identification Program

William Bevan, a former provost of Duke University and founder of Duke's Talent Identification Program (TIP), died Monday at the age of 84.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Duke Chapel.

A cognitive psychologist, Bevan spent his career researching how people perceive the world, as well as pursuing ways to translate those insights into improvements in teaching, learning, mental health care and public policy.

At Duke, he founded the Talent Identification Program (TIP), which has the mission of identifying, challenging and inspiring intellectually gifted children.

A 1995 edited volume of essays on psychology dedicated to Bevan begins with a quotation from him summing up his intellectual posture. It reads, "Much of what I have said ... adds up to one thing: the need for constantly maintaining an attitude of self-criticism to balance against our imagination."

Bevan grew up in Plains, Pa. After graduating from Franklin and Marshall College, he came to Duke as a graduate student, earning a master's degree in 1943 and doctorate in experimental psychology in 1948, with a stint in the Navy in between.

He held teaching, research and administrative positions at various universities, including a year spent as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Oslo, Norway. He later was provost and vice president of Johns Hopkins University.

In 1970, he became the executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and publisher of the organization's Science magazine. He returned to Duke in 1974, becoming chair of the Department of Psychology and then provost from 1979 to 1983. He ended his career at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where he served as vice president and director of the health program until his retirement in 1991.

One of his most visible achievements at Duke was the founding of the TIP program. Since 1980, more than 1.8 million students have participated in one of Duke TIP's two annual talent searches and over 26,000 students have participated in one or more of Duke TIP's summer or weekend programs. Duke TIP identifies academically talented students across the country as early as fourth grade and provides innovative programs to support the development of their educational potential.

In a previous interview, Bevan said he thought Duke should have a program such as TIP "to attract brilliant individuals to Duke's student body. These gifted students would be exposed to Duke and would be attracted to its campus and hopefully consider applying to Duke when they come of age."

In 2004, when TIP moved into new headquarters, the building was dedicated in Bevan's honor.

Bevan also was a long-standing benefactor of TIP. He and his wife, Dorothy, set up an endowment in memory of his mother to fund an annual scholarship for a Native American student. The Bevans also funded the Robert N. and Katherine H. Sawyer Teaching Fellowship to help support a TIP Summer Residential Program instructor who is a full-time public school teacher during the academic year. (Robert Sawyer was TIP's founding director.)

The Bevans started another endowment, in memory of Dorothy Bevan's mother, that offers financial assistance -- such as stipend supplements or transportation cost assistance -- to help TIP recruit top instructors for its summer programs.

"The Duke Talent Identification Program has lost a dear friend and benefactor," said TIP director and Duke professor Martha Putallaz. "Dr. Bevan was a true visionary and capable leader who was instrumental in the founding of Duke TIP 27 years ago. His vision and continued commitment and generosity have enriched the lives of almost 2 million gifted students giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential. He will be sorely missed."

Bevan is survived by his wife of 62 years, Dorothy; one brother, three sons and nine grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 at Hall-Wynne Funeral Home in Durham. Following the 11 a.m. service Friday, there will be a reception from 12:30-2 p.m. at Croasdaile Village. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Duke University Talent Identification Program Scholarship Fund, Box 90780, Duke University, Durham, N.C., 27708.