The Randolph-Macon College community celebrated the life of one of its most beloved
members, Dr. Michael McKay, during a memorial service on December 12, 2007 at Duncan
Memorial United Methodist Church. The pews overflowed and people stood along the
walls of the church as McKay’s two sons, Jerome and Sean, extended family, friends,
students, faculty and staff shared their fondest memories of McKay who lost his
life on Friday, December 7, 2007 in an automobile accident. The service was also
dedicated to his mother-in-law, Oleta M. Caldwell who also perished in the accident.
Caldwell, known for her kindness and generous nature, lived with the McKays and
was an integral part of their family. McKay’s wife Cathy, survived the accident
and was treated at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for non-life
threatening injuries and later released.
“Mike was so upbeat about everything and about everyone,” said President Robert
Lindgren during the memorial service. “The most important adjective I can use for
him is that he was contagious. He had such a profound and positive effect on those
McKay, who was an assistant professor of psychology, always had a smile on his face
and a kind word for anyone he encountered. He is best remembered as being jovial
and gracious. He embraced academics with that same passion, making sure each one
of his students had a challenging and innovative learning experience.
After learning of his death, students began leaving memorials in front of his office
in the Copley Science Center. Flowers and letters shared memories of his laughter,
his pride in telling stories about his family and naval career, and his interest
in what was going on in their lives outside of the classroom.
Biology and psychology major Amanda Rzucidlo `09, from Exton, Pennsylvania says
she would see him in the stands as she played field hockey or lacrosse. She said
he always cheered for his students inside and outside the classroom. She worked
with McKay on her SURF project, “Electrophysiological Differences in Meditation
and Relaxation” and remembers his continual support and encouragement.
“He radiated happiness and he was so excited about my SURF project,” said Rzucidlo.
“He would get to the lab about an hour before I would and set everything up and
run test on the data so I would know the tests were working. He really worked to
build my confidence.”
Amanda’s summer project continued into this school year and McKay ask her to present
her findings at the Southeastern Psychological Association conference in March held
in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amanda is planning to attend the conference and says
she will miss his educational guidance, but also his kindness.
“Mike often called this his ‘dream job.’ I have listened to story after story about
how he touched the lives of his students,” said Dr. Kelly Lambert, chair of the
psychology department. “What comes to mind immediately when you think about Mike
McKay is his infectious laughter, and his eternal optimism. It’s difficult trying
to imagine anyone engaging the students as he did.”
During the memorial service, Lambert announced that the psychology department has
already begun receiving gifts to establish an annual Michael T. McKay Lecture on
the Mind series in his honor.
“We are committed to doing whatever it takes to make this a meaningful remembrance
of Mike in the future, as well as a wonderful educational experience for our students,”
said Lambert. We believe this is something Mike would truly want.”
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Mike enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18.
While serving his country, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from
the University of La Verne in Southern California and a master’s degree in General
Psychology from the University of West Florida. He retired from the Navy as a Master
Chief Radioman (Surface Warfare Specialist/Master Training Specialist) in 2000 after
23 years of service.
Mike was hired as an assistant professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College
in 2004 after earning his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Sensory Processes from the University
of Florida. While a graduate student, he received several noted awards for his work.
In 2003, he received the Henry C. and Audrey S. Schumacher Fellowship, which is
awarded annually to a University of Florida, Psychology Department Graduate Student
who has demonstrated outstanding scientific promise, as reflected in the excellence
of their dissertation project; and the E. Porter Horne Memorial Scholarship, which
is awarded annually to an outstanding University of Florida graduate student pursuing
the study of sensory processes, perception, and/or cognitive psychology. He was
also awarded the Allyn & Bacon/Longman Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching
Award for 2002, which is awarded annually to a University of Florida, Department
of Psychology Graduate student who demonstrates exemplary contributions to the department's
undergraduate teaching mission.
“I hate that we have to go another day around here without Mike and without his
amazingly positive influence,” said Lindgren. “But he has left us a legacy. We are
all better for having known him, we are all better for having been touched by him,
and I can only hope and pray that we make our world a better place as a result of
Last updated 12/12/2007