Nature 06

Wayne Arthur Chess

April 28, 1929 ~ August 18, 2019 (age 90)


Dr. Wayne Chess passed away on August 18, 2019 with his family by his side. Wayne was born on April 28, 1929 in Windham, Ohio to Kenneth Wayne and Dorothy Doutt Chess. Wayne graduated from Warren Ohio High School in 1947 in Warren, Ohio. He then went on to receive his B.A. in psychology and sociology in 1951 from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. In 1951, Wayne married his first wife, Nancy Chess. Wayne then received a MASA in Social Work in 1953, followed by a PhD in Social Work, in 1964, both from Ohio State University. Between earning his advanced degrees, Dr. Chess had a very successful career in mental health services in Ohio where he was part of a small group of national experts in a comprehensive mental health and mental retardation planning that helped build state comprehensive mental health systems. He reported directly to the Ohio governor and was on a “fast track to Washington”. His experiment in teaching and research resulted in a love of teaching. In 1969, he and his family moved to Oklahoma and Wayne began his career in higher education at the University of Oklahoma. In the 1980’s, he began a 15 year writing partnership with Siri Jayaratne on job satisfaction that produced 23 book articles and book chapters. This research on job stress and strain earned national and international attention and respect and an invitation to Italy’s Laboratory for Social Policy Studies to discuss his research on “burnout” for the Worldnet Video Conference. The program was broadcasted live to 45 European and 12 African cities. He was also invited to lunch with President Jimmy Carter to discuss this research. Dr. Chess continued to engage in research and to publish. He and Julia M. Norlin co-authored one of the most widely used textbooks in the field. This pioneer work in social systems and its applications to the field of social work did much to establish the school as a forerunner in this area. Integral to Dr. Chess’s approach to practice with his commitment to social change particularly his commitment to the exercise of individual rights. He was active in many civic and professional organizations in which he held various offices. For his many contributions, he was honored as the NASW-OK social worker of the year in 1973. During the 100th anniversary of the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, Dr. Chess was named to the list of “100 for 100,” 100 of the outstanding contributors for the 100 years of the school. Above all, students and colleagues will remember him as a gifted and dedicated teacher, an exceptional scholar, and a distinguished leader in his profession whose work enhanced the university and the profession. An endowed scholarship has been established in his honor to support future generations of social work students. Wayne was a hard-working, quick witted, good-natured, man who built a legacy of integrity. He was above all an honorable man. He was preceded in death by his wife Nancy in 2002, and his brother Jerry in 2013. He is survived by his wife of 15 years, Beverley Lafferrandre Chess of Norman; his three sons, Gregory Chess and his wife Peggy Chess of Oklahoma City, Chasen Chess of San Diego, and John Chess and his wife Janet Chess of Rocklin, California; grandchildren Will Chess and his wife Stephanie, Michael Chess, Brianna Chess, Eli Chess, Dani Sotir, Bailey Chess and Tommy Chess; Chrystal and Jeremy Sanders of Norman, and great grandchildren Caeden, Conner and Gracie Chess of Norman. He is also survived by his step children Bill and Lisa Lafferrandre and their children Sara, Emily and Hannah, Bob and Julie Lafferrandre and their children Robert Lafferrandre, Katie Doar (Mike) and Jack Lafferrandre, David and Amy LaGere and their children Ellie and Anna LaGere.

A private family service will be held on Wednesday, August 21 with the Reverend David Spain officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contribution may be made to the Wayne and Nancy Chess Scholarship Fund or the Chess/Norlin Scholarship Fund at: Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, 100 Timberlane Rd., Norman, OK 73019-0685

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