A young man and impending PhD graduate from SUNY/Buffalo interviewed at UMBC for a teaching job in February of 1980. The man was Robert Deluty and the meeting came on the heels of a successful one with the University of Virginia, a place which he aesthetically described as “unbelievable” and, in terms of visual appeal, far superior to that of UMBC.
He received job offers from both universities and promptly created a list of advisors he needed to call to help him reach his decision. One by one, they each told him the optimal choice was clear: UVA. But something about it just wasn’t sitting right with him. The last man on his list was Edward Katkin, the former department chair for the Psychology Department at SUNY/Buffalo. Katkin provided Deluty with the answer he was desperately looking for, “Oh that’s a no brainer, you got to go to UMBC.”
That was all the reassurance Deluty needed. He accepted the university’s offer and has been working here in the Department of Psychology ever since. Deluty began as an Assistant Professor of Psychology, but rose to the rank of Associate Dean of the Graduate School. This past week, 36 years since that consequential interview in February, he announced his retirement.
Deluty entered the department during a time when the graduate program did not extend past a master’s degree. Blueprints for a doctoral degree plan were in the process of creation by Leon Levy, department chair at the time, who collaborated with Deluty. He told Deluty about his plan to create a “human services psychology” doctoral program that was intended to be broad because you “have to go beyond the traditional one-on-one therapy if you want to be a clinician.”
The idea resonated with Deluty, who was thinking at the time of the discussion, “This is wonderful.” He added, “So despite UVA’s prestige, reputation and history, I decided to come here.” He cracked a smile when he concluded, “I think I made the right decision.”
Deluty’s students would likely agree. The professor has a 4.9/5 rating on ratemyprofessors.com. The last comment on his page on the site, posted in late September, says “The course material is fascinating and Deluty teaches it beautifully. He’s a phenomenal lecturer. Deserves an A plus!”
In addition to teaching, which he has continued to do during his tenure as associate dean, he has also been an avid writer, specializing in poems and essays. Much of his work has been connected to his studies and discoveries in the field of psychology.
His first published work was spurred by the forthcoming arrival of his son from Korea. Deluty says that it struck him that he was soon to be a father and that it made him think how he would “stack up to his own father.” He said, “All these old stories about my dad were flooding in. I found myself very emotional at times. My wife, a clinical psychologist, picked up on it and asked what was going on. I told her one of my favorite stories about my father, and she advised me to write it up.”
And so he did. Deluty sent the essay to the “Baltimore Evening Sun” and it was, much to his excitement, published in the Op-Ed section.
He has since written 51 books full of mostly poems, in the format of senryu, which he describes as the “first cousin” of haiku. He said he strives to make his poems relatable, which doesn’t always jive with mainstream publishers, some of whom have criticized him for not being “challenging enough” in his work.
“I found that to be a curious response. I would like people to be able to understand what I write. Most poems that I read in the top literary journals, I can’t make heads or tails of. I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” he said.
He cites this unnecessary complexity as a reason many people are turned off by poetry. His work has served to combat that stigma.
While Deluty may officially depart from campus as an active staff member, he leaves behind his many published works and plans on returning for guest lectures, which he already gives per request by fellow professors.
When asked what he will miss the most, he candidly replied, “The people. Enormously. I will never miss an administrators’ meeting or a faculty meeting. But I will miss interactions with some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.”