STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/25/2012

The "Twinkle": A Tribute to Bob Joss

Assistant Professor Jonathan Gerber, retiring Professor Robert Joss, and Professors Bert Hodges, Kaye Cook, Bryan Auday and Suzanne Phillips.

by Bert Hodges

The most enduring impression people have of Robert Joss is “the twinkle.” He says “howdy” in a conspiratorial voice and then you see it—the twinkle in the eye that widens and crinkles into a sly smile that signals a joke about to be told. You watch the face, listening to him set up the punch line, one he often has trouble delivering because he can’t stop his own anticipatory laughter. No matter; more than half of the fun of the joke is watching how much fun Bob has telling it.

I first met Bob Joss as a freshman in college. He was a prankster, a cheerleader, and a math major, who was dating one of my friends. The friend was Meredith Johnson (later to become Bob’s wife), but when they first began dating, several of us laid odds that it would not last. We were gloriously wrong. Soon they will celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary. Together they have been one of the facets of Gordon College that most reveal its glory, and more importantly God’s glory. If there is any one word that sums up Bob and Meredith, including their work at Gordon, it is hospitality. Their house has welcomed thousands of people over the years, students, colleagues, fellow churchgoers, and especially international students. The year they spent on sabbatical in Kenya in 1989 changed their lives forever. As a consequence of that year, others in the Psychology Department—me included— came to a new appreciation of and commitment to cross-cultural psychology.

We welcomed Bob to the Psychology Department in the fall of 1974. We were concerned to find someone who was well-trained, who had his own head “screwed on straight,” and who could start an internship program for us. We also wanted someone who was committed to teaching and students, who wouldn’t be tempted to shortchange them in favor of clinical practice. We got all that we bargained for and more. Best of all we gained a friend, someone who provides wisdom, gravitas, and grace whenever and wherever it is needed. So many colleagues, students and church members have benefited from his wise counsel.

During his first few years, Bob ran the Counseling Center on campus in addition to his teaching responsibilities, but during the 1980s he discovered his “true love” professionally—forensic psychology. It began with a sabbatical experience, but eventually he became a founding partner of one of the largest forensic practices in Massachusetts. His work in the legal system provided a wealth of new material for jokes and classroom stories, as well as crucial connections for students interested in the human and social services related to the legal and political practices of the Commonwealth.

Robert Joss has been an invaluable member of our commonwealth at Gordon for the past 38 years. His competence, concern, and care will be greatly missed. But on some “down day” in years to come, we can remember and be grateful for the twinkle in God’s eye that Bob is. 

Professor of Psychology Bert Hodges came to Gordon in 1972. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Southampton (UK) and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and serves as senior research scientist at the University of Connecticut.

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