In Memoriam: Douglas H. Sprenkle


Longtime NCFR member Douglas H. Sprenkle, Ph.D., died on Aug. 15, 2018, at age 77.

Dr. Sprenkle received his bachelor’s degree in government from Wesleyan University (1963), a masters from Princeton Theological Seminary (1967), and a masters (1973) and doctorate (1975) in family social science with a minor in psychology from the University of Minnesota. He spent his entire post-doctoral career of 39 years with the marriage and family therapy  program at Purdue University. He was the director of this program from 1985 to 1994 and again from 2003 to 2014.

Dr. Sprenkle was a prolific author who wrote over 130 refereed journal articles and book chapters and 10 books. He particularly enjoyed synthesizing, integrating, and theory development. As part of his doctoral dissertation, he was one of the co-developers (with David Olson and Candyce Russell) of the Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems. His primary focus in the last decade of his life was writing widely cited work providing evidence that common factors, such as a strong therapeutic alliance, underlie the success of various family therapy approaches.

From 2000 to 2007, Dr. Sprenkle was editor of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, published by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). He also served on the AAMFT Board of Directors.

In 1974, NCFR awarded Dr. Sprenkle its Outstanding Student Award. He would go on to win many major family awards in teaching, research, and service, including NCFR's Ernest G. Osborne Award, which recognizes outstanding teachers in the field of family studies.

Dr. Sprenkle made a bequest of his retirement funds — expected to amount to more than $1 million — to the marriage and family therapy program at Purdue University. Dr. Sprenkle's motivation for this generous gift was to continue to help strengthen families long after he's left the profession, saying, "I'm very much a believer in the role of families in human happiness and well-being."

A Celebration of Life will be held on October 7, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at Heart of Steamboat UMC. See the full obituary for more information.