Professor’s suicide shocks staff, former and current students

Driving on the freeway, a student saw her professor driving in the car beside her. At her next session with him, she told him that she saw him on the freeway. His response: “You should have honked and waved.”

Any death involving a member of the Cal State Fullerton community has an impact on the staff and students.

Ian J. Scofield, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, died Sept. 27.

The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner confirmed Scofield’s cause of death was suicide.

Jack Mearns, professor and chair of the Psychology Department, said he did not know Scofield personally, but knew he was a very bright man who was able to teach a variety of classes.

“I am very sad to hear that he died and that it was to a suicide,” said Mearns.

Over the past week, Mearns visited the professor’s classes along with representatives from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). He wanted to make sure everyone knew of Scofield’s death and that campus resources were available for support.

“Clearly, it is very disruptive to have one’s professor not be able to complete the semester,” Mearns said. “Added to that is the shock of finding out that he had died.”

Mearns has arranged for substitute faculty member to complete Scofield’s classes. He added that he wants to be sure that the late professor’s students have the best educational experience they can under the circumstances.

Cristina Villa, a student of Scofield’s and a psychology major, took his research and methods class during the spring 2011 semester. Villa said Scofield was always smiling and had a good personality.

“He was very knowledgeable and he cared a lot about his students because he always made it a point to remember your name,” said Villa.

As a professor, Villa said Scofield always talked about current events and would tie them into the class and the student’s lives.

“His style of teaching was very interactive,” Villa said. “He always wanted his class to participate and always did group projects.”

Like most students, Villa was shocked to hear of his cause of death. She said he did not disclose information about his personal life, but spoke fondly of his family back home in England.

Villa added that Scofield enjoyed having students from abroad and would make a game of guessing their nationality based on their accent. Being from England, Villa said he seemed to relate to others from foreign countries.

Scofield’s colleagues described him as someone who kept to himself and was very quiet.

Professors and students confirmed that Scofield cancelled class one week because he said he was sick. Many started to question if he had an illness and if he was OK.

His cause of death was also a shock to faculty and students. Faculty members said there weren’t any signs to make them think he would hurt himself.

Other professors said there are multiple resources available for anyone contemplating suicide.

Students and faculty are encouraged to visit the Student Health and Counseling Center where they can get help. CAPS can be reached at (657) 278-3040.

About Erinn Grotefend

Erinn Grotefend is graduating from Cal State University Fullerton this spring. Serving as Detour Editor during the fall 2012, Erinn is ready to take on the position of News Editor this semester. She is majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Print Journalism and a minor in Radio, Television and Film. Erinn started her journalism career at Mount San Antonio College where she was News Editor for The Mountaineer. After graduating from CSUF, she plans to write for newspapers and magazines as well as go into television production. Her ultimate goal is to work for E! Entertainment.