William Thetford, Ph.D.

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Interview with Bill  |  Memorial Service


William N. Thetford, Ph.D. was Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1958 to 1980, and Director of the Psychology Department at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York. His life experiences provided as indirect a route to A Course in Miracles as his partner and friend's, Helen Schucman.

Dr. Thetford was born into a mid-western middleclass family and grew up on the south side of Chicago. He was the youngest of three children and the only one to survive childhood.

Dr. Thetford's exposure to religion was erratic as a child. Until the age of seven, he attended the Sunday school of the Christian Science Church where his parents were members. But following the death of his sister when he was seven, his parents renounced their church affiliation and Dr. Thetford attended various Protestant churches – Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational – until his adolescence.

It was during this period that Dr. Thetford developed a severe case of scarlet fever, which led to rheumatic fever and a serious heart condition. He spent three years recuperating at home and reading voraciously. Despite his absence from the classroom, he entered high school at the age of twelve. Following graduation from high school, he was awarded a four-year scholarship to Depauw University in Indiana where he graduated with majors in psychology and pre-medicine.

William Thetford was accepted at the University of Chicago's Medical School for the class of 1944. To help support himself, he accepted a job at the University's Metallurgical Laboratory, which turned out to be the code name for the atomic bomb research program, where he served as an administrative liaison officer between the scientific community and the university administration. Because of the great sense of national urgency, he cancelled plans for entering medical school continuing to work in this research program until the bomb was dropped in August 1945.

The following month Dr. Thetford began graduate studies in psychology and served as a teaching and research assistant to Dr. Carl Rogers. After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology in 1949, Dr. Thetford spent three years at the Washington School of Psychiatry. In 1954, he was named Director of the Psychology Department at The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. The following year he accepted an appointment at Cornell University Medical College where he remained until 1958 when he accepted a professorship at Columbia University. That same year he hired Dr. Helen Schucman as a research psychologist.

Since A Course in Miracles was published, Dr. Thetford has co-edited Choose Once Again, selections from the Course. He relocated to La Jolla, California in 1986 and died on July 4, 1988 on a trip to Tiburon.

INKS:  BiographyCurriculum Vitae  |  Significant Dates 
Interview with Bill  |  Memorial Service