School of Education News

Bill Morgan's career contributions honored

September 20, 2006

William P. Morgan, UW-Madison emeritus professor and renowned sports psychologist, and his contributions to the field of exercise psychology have been honored in several ways over the past year, culminating in this year’s Hetherington Award, the highest award bestowed by the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

The Clark W. Hetherington Award – given to Morgan this month at the Academy’s annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona – honors members who have provided outstanding leadership and significant contributions to those fields.

Morgan developed the “iceberg profile” in the 1970s to describe the mood characteristics of marathon runners and other athletes, among other accomplishments. He found, through psychological testing, that compared to U.S. norms, athletes scored significantly lower in negative mental health traits such as tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion, but significantly higher for vigor. His work presented a correlation between exercise and a decrease in anxiety that was confirmed in dozens of subsequent studies in both serious and recreational athletes.

In addition to more than 25 years of work at UW-Madison, Morgan has served the International Olympic Committee, the Institute of Medicine, the American Psychological Association and other organizations. He has edited four books and authored more than 100 papers on sports psychology.

The entire December 2005 issue of the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology honors Morgan’s career. The issue – billed as a Festschrift, or celebration publication – features articles from leading scholars in sports and exercise psychology, including many of Morgan’s former students. The articles focus on areas influenced by Morgan, who retired in 2005.

Rod Dishman, professor of exercise science and director of the Exercise Psychology Laboratory at the University of Georgia, coordinated the tribute, which he described as a first for this journal and in the field of sport and exercise psychology.

“No one has had as broad and positive an impact as Morgan in defining areas of inquiry and professional recognition in the study of psychology in both sport and exercise,” notes Dishman, who received his Ph.D. from UW-Madison in 1978.

According to the profile by Dishman and Patrick O’Connor, who received his Ph.D. in kinesiology from UW-Madison in 1989, Morgan’s work has provided a better understanding, for example, of the role of personality and mental health in the performance of elite athletes, the role of psychological factors in perceived exertion, and the problems of exercise adherence. But they point to their mentor’s studies of the beneficial psychological outcomes of physical training, begun as a research fellow in the 1960s, as his most consequential.

“The finding that exercise training was associated with antidepressant effects represented a quantum leap for sports science from a number of perspectives, considering prior to that time the mental health outcomes of physical activity had been largely ignored. … Professor Morgan was unique in his focus on the role of exercise in improving the psychological well-being and quality of life for individuals.”

Asked recently about what inspired him to achieve over the course of his career, Morgan points to “the standards, goals, and a work ethic instilled by my parents, coaches, and K-12 teachers during my formative years in Western Pennsylvania.”

While proud of his accomplishments and publications, he cites as his greatest source of professional satisfaction “the success of my Ph.D. graduate students. These students have gone on to play important roles in the fields of exercise and sport psychology, and they are recognized both nationally and internationally for their unique contributions.”

In addition to Dishman and O’Connor, former Morgan students who contributed articles for the journal tribute include Michael S. Bahrke (Ph.D. ’77), Jack S. Raglin (M.S. ’84, Ph.D. ’88), Aaron J. Stegner (M.S. ’99, Ph.D. ’04), David A. Tobar (M.S. ’99, Ph.D. ’03), David R. Brown (Ph.D. ’85), Kelli F. Koltyn (Ph.D ’90), and Ann Wertz Garvin (M.S. ’90; Ph.D. ’97).

The International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology is the official journal of the International Society of Sports Psychology and published by Fitness Information Technology of Morgantown, West Virginia. For more information, go online to www.fitinfotech.com/IJSEP/IJSEP.tpl.

Another career tribute to Morgan came in the form of a scientific symposium on mind/body interactions in his honor at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine held in Denver. Kelli Koltyn, associate professor of kinesiology at UW-Madison and a former Morgan student, chaired the session, which included Dishman, O’Connor, and Raglin.


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