Meet a member: Psychologist jumped into the computer age

Name: MaryAnn (DeNicola) Anderson.

Where I live: Chicago. I’m just a bit over a mile from the Art Institute of Chicago and the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Where and when I was born: Gary, Ind., in 1928.

Family: Daughter Mélanie Wynne Anderson, son-in-law Tom Couch, granddaughter Carolina Gwinn, grandson Evan Couch.

Education: Master’s degree in psychology from Indiana University.

Occupation: I was a gift shop owner until my daughter started kindergarten. I was a primary school teacher until I completed the work required for my master’s degree in school psychology. I then worked as a school psychologist until retiring at 65.

In 1981, there was a personnel strike that closed the schools, and I found myself with little to do after reporting to work. But I had earlier attended a workshop for administrative staff on personal computers, and began hanging out in the department that housed various desktops. So, I learned how to use them.

I was really exasperated at the amount of time required to analyze data from the various tasks and tests I administered to the children. There was plenty of credible research, but none of it organized in any useful way. So that’s what I did with that gifted time — learned how to write computer programs. I bought an Apple II computer, and eventually sent letters to thousands of other school psychologists, and sold a two-disk program to other child psychologists across the country, on useful approaches and recommendations for the teachers.

Person in history I admire and why: I admire Franklin Delano Roosevelt immensely. He struggled to overcome terrible physical handicaps, then dared to challenge the social beliefs of his caste to address the ills of the country with imaginative approaches never before dreamed of.

These are a few of my favorite things: Live music, bridge with friends, reading.

My doubts about religion started: I’m not sure. My mother, though she had never previously attended church, began to do so many years later when she moved next door to my sister, whose brother-in-law was a priest. My dad was an atheist, and I was a “daddy’s girl.” When I was about 11, my mother sent me to catechism classes and had me take a first communion. Unlike my siblings, I was rebellious, and my mother often sent me off to confession with instructions to tell the priest about all the times I sassed her. Unfortunately for her, I didn’t feel like a sinner. Maybe that was the beginning of my atheism. I’m not sure when I stopped believing in a God, and I’m not at all sure that I ever had a strong belief in the first place. My sibs, who each spent at least one year in Catholic schools, are all quite religious, and try to not be too aware of my atheism. Surprisingly, some of my nieces and nephews are atheists, which really gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling, though I have played no part in their nonbelief.

This photo captures MaryAnn Anderson having a cigarette while her husband reads a magazine in 1955.
Maryann Anderson