(1923 - 2020)
Dr. Joseph Masling, a pioneering researcher in Freudian psychology who taught at the University at Buffalo for more than half a century, also indulged an eclectic range of interests.
He played classical violin and listened only to classical music with a fierce antipathy toward anything composed after 1875. He was an oenophile, a connoisseur of fine wines.
Dr. Masling also was described by his family as a strict grammarian and lover of language who never tired of pointing out the grammatical errors made by loved ones and strangers alike.
He was not only a bright intellect, but a fierce competitor in poker, boxing and, most especially, tennis, which he continued to play until age 95.
Dr. Masling died on Dec. 29 in Buffalo General Medical Center from complications related to Covid-19. He was 97.
His daughter, Susan Rubel, said her parents lived independently in downtown Buffalo, until her mother contracted Covid-19, followed by her father.
"They were both in the hospital together. Buffalo General was wonderful. They put them in a room together for almost two weeks. Then, my father, surprisingly, died, because my mother was much sicker," said Rubel.
Their final days together were special, she said.
"It made a huge difference. They spent every minute together. He sat there in a chair, holding her hand," Rubel recalled.
A child of the Great Depression, he was born Dec. 18, 1923, in Rochester, and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943, interrupting his studies at the University of Iowa to serve as a weatherman in India, China and the U.S.
After receiving an honorable discharge, he completed his undergraduate studies at Syracuse University. He obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology from Ohio State University.
While conducting post-doctoral research in Philadelphia, Dr. Masling met Annette Chernoff, whom he married in 1953.
Dr. Masling returned to teach at Syracuse in the Psychology Department. In 1964-65, on a Fulbright Fellowship, he worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, helping to establish a clinical training program in the school’s psychology department.
From 1965 until his retirement, he spent more than 50 years as a professor of psychology at UB, also serving as department chairman, head of the psychology clinic and on many university committees.
According to Rubel, Dr. Masling was unimpressed with plans to move the Psychology Department at UB from the Main Street campus, with its classical buildings, to Ridge Lea, where a series of cookie-cutter buildings were planned.
"They said, 'What can we do to make it better?' He said, 'Plant trees,' and, sure enough, 20 years later, they're thanking him for that," Rubel said.
In 1972, Dr. Masling studied at the Anna Freud Clinic in London, where he endeavored to empirically verify principles established by Anna’s father, applying rigorous scientific methods to the exploration of Freudian theory.
Dr. Masling’s work culminated in his editing and publishing a 10-volume series titled "Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytic Theories." For many years, he also maintained a small private clinical practice.
In 2016, Dr. Masling and his frequent tennis partner, Morton Rothstein, were the subject of an article in The Buffalo News when they were 92 and 93, respectively. Rothstein, a retired professor in the biological sciences at UB, said the two first met about 1963.
"We probably met through tennis. We kind of just fell in together. It was just a spiritual making, I guess you might call it," Rothstein said,
He said both men shared a passion for classical music, but while Rothstein described himself as bumbling on the piano, he said Dr. Masling's skills on the piano were professional level. Dr. Masling was the son of a cellist who played with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
He was 15 when he started playing tennis in Rochester.
“When I was younger I could run all day," Dr. Masling said. "My nickname was ‘The Human Backboard.’ When I was teaching at various colleges, I would frustrate students that I played tennis with by keeping the ball in play until they made an error.”
He continued to play into his later years, even after major back surgery.
Besides his daughter, Dr. Masling is survived by his wife of 67 years, who is retired head librarian at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; a son, Mark; and four grandchildren.