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Holzman, P.S. (1996). Merton Gill: Teacher, Scholar, Friend. Ann. Psychoanal., 24:19-24.

(1996). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 24:19-24

Merton Gill: Teacher, Scholar, Friend

Philip S. Holzman, Ph.D.

The obituary notice in The New York Times on November 19, 1994, while respectful, seemed, like all such notices, a bit stony and cold. “Merton Max Gill,” it read, “an academic psychoanalyst, died on Sunday at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Gill, who lived in Chicago, was 80 years old.” We are obliged here to fill in the color, the warmth, the intensity, the zealousness, the humor, the uninhibited exuberance, the moodiness, and the sheer brilliance of this man who was first and always my teacher, but also my good friend. And in this process we explore what his life meant for us and for the profession he so passionately served and believed in.

My first encounter with Merton occurred in Topeka in 1946. Some people burst upon the scene with an indelible identifying quality. With Groucho, it was his slouchy walk; with FDR, it was his jaunty smile of confidence. With Merton, it was his resonant, baritone voice that commanded immediate attention. To me, as a 24-year-old student at the Menninger Foundation's newly established School of Clinical Psychology and fresh out of the U.S. Army, Merton's was the instant and immediate stentorian voice of authority, without benefit of any military rank—and with what authority he spoke. But at that time, he also inspired fear in me and in many of my fellow students who took a course in hypnosis from him—until one revealing and defining occasion, when he publicly shamed me. You remember that he and Margaret Brenman were then the reigning experts on hypnotherapy. On that day, we were reviewing the literature on hypnosis, and I had read a paper by du Bois Reymond, which Merton asked me to summarize and comment on in class.

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