A Tribute to the Late Rob Ragatz, PhD – Washington State University Psychology Internship Coordinator, by WSU Intern John F. Murray (1997-1998)
“Far more than our year-long stroll with him in those amber waves of grain, where he enlightened us with wisdom, kindness and tolerance, his influence now from the vantage point of stars will be greater”
Rob Ragatz was a rare great man. He was one of the finest mentors I had. He was incredibly insightful, tolerant and non-judgmental. In retrospect, he must have been the reason I traded one corner of America for another for a year of training.
More than a total professional, Rob was extremely decent. I was fortunate to receive one of his final emails, sent only hours before his fateful journey to the other side. He understood and taught to the end. I had not heard from him in over a year, and I think he wanted to share some final wisdom and generosity before leaving.
Rob always thought more about others than himself. His success was in his students. He cared. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about Rob’s final email that evening, even though there was no reason to suspect anything unusual.
Rob reminded me of Abe Lincoln and even looked somewhat like him. Why didn’t we buy him a large black hat? The toughest Rob was with me during internship was after I criticized a graduate student for making repeated careless errors in her report. Rob, with his wisdom of tolerance, and “Unconditional Positive Regard,” emphasized that gentleness and care of the student in supervision is more important than accuracy and efficiency. It epitomized the way he treated us.
How could you not miss Rob? His work on earth must have been complete and he’s moved on to another challenge. Far more than our year-long stroll with him in those amber waves of grain, where he enlightened us with wisdom, kindness and tolerance, his influence now from the vantage point of stars will be greater.
Your impact on me, Rob, and on our internship class during those many group meetings when, at the end, you’d always check patiently to see if there was anything else (“more, different, other?â€?), or when you told us to “resist the frenzy to cure,” all of this and much more live with us forever. You were a friend.
———The Story Below Appeared in the Local Daily Evergreen———–
Robert Ragatz, associate director and director of training of WSU Counseling Services, died on Aug. 11 at the age of 55 due to complications during outpatient surgery. The family would not specify what kind of surgery.
Ragatz was a part of WSU for the past 26 years and during his time worked with students both through training and counseling. Recently, he was an active member of the WSU Student Conduct Board.
Ragatz was married to Beth Waddel, a local psychologist, for 21 years.
“It’s just a tragic situation,â€? Waddel said. “He was a wonderful father and a wonderful husband.â€?
The best tribute to Ragatz would be for students to practice what they learned from him, she said.
Barbara Hammond, director of WSU Counseling Services, worked with Ragatz for 22 years. She said he was integral to the development of psychology students and the evolution of Counseling Services throughout the years he was here.
“For the literally hundreds of students that went on [in psychology] he was the main person in their development,â€? Hammond said.
At Counseling Services, Ragatz would lead group therapy, train participants for the Crisis Line and help as many students and clients as possible, she said.
“He was a very sweet and gentle man,â€? Hammond said. “He is very well regarded by those who worked with him.â€?
Scott Case, the program coordinator of WSU stress management program and the senior staff psychologist, was hired two years ago by Ragatz. He was responsible for persuading Case to come and work in Pullman, Case said, something he will be eternally grateful for.
Case and Ragatz rode together for two and a half hours to the Counseling Service’s annual retreat the day before Ragatz died.
Case said the trip brought out a true side of Ragatz, a more personal one in that he was able to share his greatest interests with Case.
Ragatz had a strong love for automobiles, both modern fast cars and vintage machines, and also an interest in motors that he could talk extensively about. Case said he was a passionate, creative man with a sharp sense of humor that he would use extensively.
“I see it as a great gift to be one of the last people to spend time with Rob,â€? Case said. “He was very at rest and happy to be where he was in life, even geographically, with his family in Pullman.â€?
A ceremony was held on Aug. 17 for Ragatz. Counseling Services will have a flowering tree memorial in the garden outside of the Lighty Building. The memorial can be seen from Ragatz’s office.
“We thought it would be nice to have a living memorial,â€? Hammond said.
Hammond and Case said Ragatz was someone who dedicated many years to the university and its students.
“Counseling Services helps a lot of people,â€? Case said. “He worked with, helped and trained students. That is a pretty important position to be in life. He did it well.â€?