COE responds to tragic death of Professor Emeritus Thomas Oakland

(Thomas Oakland, a beloved and world-renowned professor of school psychology at the UF College of Education from 1995 until his retirement in 2010, was killed on Wednesday, March 4, when, Gainesville […]
Thomas Oakland, Professor Emeritus (1939-2015)

Dr. Thomas Oakland, Professor Emeritus (1939-2015)

(Thomas Oakland, a beloved and world-renowned professor of school psychology at the UF College of Education from 1995 until his retirement in 2010, was killed on Wednesday, March 4, when, Gainesville police allege, a local man set Dr. Oakland’s house on fire after killing and stealing money from him. Police have a suspect in custody. Dr. Oakland was 75. Below is the College’s public statement issued by Dean Glenn Good in response to Dr. Oakland’s death.)

“We are shocked and deeply saddened over the passing of Professor Emeritus Thomas Oakland. The circumstances surrounding his death only compound our grief. Dr. Oakland was an exemplary world-class scholar in the field of school psychology, and a dedicated teacher, researcher and mentor to his students during his 15 years as a College of Education faculty member. We will continue to be inspired by his extraordinary commitment to the college and his profession, his caring and love for his family, compassion for his students and graduates, and his grace and humor . . . Professor Oakland was an international scholar and touched so many people throughout the world. He continued to stay connected with his former students and colleagues at UF after he retired. We will miss Professor Oakland greatly and he will be missed by many people around the world.”

— Dr. Oakland’s family has said plans will be forthcoming for a local memorial celebration of Dr. Oakland’s life. The COE will post the time and place when announced.
— Visit to read The Gainesville Sun coverage of Dr. Oakland’s death and the arrest of the man charged with his murder.
— Visit for a TV news report from WJXT-TV 4 News (Jacksonville). It’s a 2:30 minute report, and some 40 seconds into it begins a heartwarming profile of Dr. Oakland with a phone testimonial from his son, Chris, who describes his internationally acclaimed dad as “a father figure for the world.”

THOMAS OAKLAND, PhD: A Brief Profile

Dr. Oakland worked as a professor of school psychology at the UF College of Education from 1995 until his retirement in 2010, when he was conferred the distinction of professor emeritus. He was a preeminent scholar in his field of study both nationally and worldwide.

He received UF’s Senior Faculty Distinguished International Educator of the Year Award in 2004, the same year he was given the prestigious distinction of University of Florida Research Foundation Professor. His scholarly work in more than 45 countries centered on psychological and educational characteristics of children and youth, applied psychological assessment, cultural diversity, international issues and professionalism in the school and education psychology fields.

Oakland said the most important part of his work was helping children to succeed in their education. He provided educational and psychological testing in schools in many developing nations, including the Gaza Strip near Israel, Mexico, Central America and Brazil, where he was a Fulbright Scholar and helped form the country’s national association of school psychology. One project involved creating a 10-week program for school psychology graduate students from UF and other institutions to gain fluency in Spanish and knowledge of Latin culture and educational methods.

Other honors Oakland received include the 2006 College of Education Lifetime Achievement Award and the college’s 2007 award for doctoral student mentoring and dissertation advisement. Several foreign universities named him honorary professor or professor emeritus after his collaborations with those institutions.

As a professor and mentor, Oakland encouraged his students to take a global approach in their studies and life in general, saying, “I encourage my students to acquire a world view on issues and not to be restricted only to those currently in vogue in our country.”

Oakland held numerous leadership positions with national professional groups, including presidencies for the International Foundation for Children’s Education, the International School Psychology Association and the International Test Commission. He also received honors for distinguished contributions and lifetime achievements and service from those and other groups, including the Florida Association of School Psychologists.

He has authored or edited 12 books, 100 chapters, 200 articles, and developed several widely used psychological tests. Oakland was board certified in school psychology and neuropsychology and had an active forensic practice. He was a member of the Task Force that developed the ethics code of the American Psychological Association.

Prior to joining the UF faculty, Oakland was on the education psychology faculty at the University of Texas at Austin for 27 years. He had master’s and doctorate degrees in educational psychology from Indiana University.