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Remembering Bob Strauss

"On his 50th year in the field I interviewed him to capture more of the history he knew. My final question to him was, 'Bob, after 50 years in the field, what is the one thing you would want addiction specialists to remember?' He looked at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and simply said, 'Be kind.' For his whole life of 96 years Bob lived up to his own advice. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known." - Ray Daugherty, PRI Co-Founder

Dr. Straus was the first graduate student at the Yale Center for Alcohol Studies – the first of its kind in the nation. He was also the first graduate sociology student at Yale to complete the Ph. D. program in just 3 years.

He was a true pioneer in the addictions field and his contributions were immense and recognized around the world. When he retired, the British Journal of Addiction printed an article simply titled, Conversation with Robert Straus. He needed no further international introduction.

He chaired groups on addiction for the World Health Organization and for the National Academy of Sciences of which he was an inducted member. For several years he chaired the Advisory Board of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and was twice offered the job as its Director. But he declined to stay in Kentucky.?Bob also chaired the immensely influential Joint Committee on Alcohol Problems drawing together resources of the USA and Canada.

He was viewed by colleagues as a peace maker and one they could turn to when things got rough. Bob was also asked by the American Journal of Psychiatry to write a special edition on Alcohol and Society which became the Journal’s best-selling publication. He also conducted the first major college drinking study, still quoted today.?It was, at the time the largest study of drinking behavior that had ever been done. He also did landmark work on studying people with alcoholism on “skid row.”? He wrote a book that to this day stands alone in its field. He followed the life of one homeless man over decades and wrote a fascinating book on it called Escape from Custody. It was published by Rand McNally.

Dr. Straus was also very influential at PRI and served on our board for many years. In fact, the concept of Social Dependence we teach in PFL came originally from Bob Straus, so all PFL instructors have been influenced by him. We expanded on the concept which made him very happy. He was never proprietary with ideas. If he had an idea and others improved on it, that was just part of good science to him. “He was a prolific researcher and writer, a pioneer in the alcohol field, helped establish the medical school at UK, and helped nurture and shape PRI. His wisdom, keen observations, and gentle spirit will all be missed.” – Dr. David Rosengren, PRI President & CEO