Two Times at Columbia
Maressa Hecht Orzack
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1951
My connection with Columbia was twofold. My dad, Selig Hecht, was a professor of biophysics and a pioneer in the study of color vision. Athough he was a member of the zoology department, he had a unique laboratory at the top of the physics building. As such, he got to know physicists, such as I.I. Rabi and Enrico Fermi, and T.H. Morgan and L.C. Dunn in the zoology department. He was also one of the first Jewish professors to be appointed at Columbia. We lived on Claremont Avenue between 116th and 120th Streets. It was a rarified atmosphere of scholars and professionals and their families. Many of the younger population went to the Lion's Den for fun and to Teachers College experimental schools such as Lincoln School.
After we grew up, some went to war in Europe and Japan. Others, like me, went to other colleges, but I came back and received my Ph.D. in experimental psychology during the Eisenhower years. We were in Schermerhorn, along with anthroplogists such as Margaret Mead. Professor Woodworth taught the history of experimental psychology and we had our choices of studying psychophysiology of vision with C.H. Graham, comparative psychology with C.J. Warden, or statistics with Henry Garrett. I was lucky enough to have W.N. Schoenfeld and Fred S. Keller as sponsors for my dissertation on the effects of punishment to rats in a Skinner box. They were the two people who made Psych 101 into a program where everything was based on the Operant Conditioning Model. I had a great time at Columbia, and even met my late husband there.