Several years ago, I served as the advisor to the Psi Chi Chapter at the State University of New York Oneonta campus. We were inducting one of our largest groups into Psi Chi and wanted a very special, off-campus venue that would accommodate the many inductees, their parents, and guests. We found the perfect place—it was the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame, which was located at the time in Oneonta, NY. This was the perfect venue and the place where Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and so many other soccer Hall of Famers greats were inducted.
I met with the Interim Director of the Hall, George C. Brown, who was an inducted member of the Hall of Fame as a soccer player. In our ensuing conversation, George proudly indicated that he majored in psychology at University of Bridgeport (CT) where he was inducted into their Psi Chi Chapter.
Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, may be the only academic honor society to have as one of its members a National Hall of Famer who was inducted as a player. George was also inducted into the New England and Connecticut Soccer Halls of Fame.
Statistically speaking, those are very rare events, in fact, an apparent impossibility, but it happened. The question of this seemingly impossibility is, “When did George have the opportunity to play soccer at an impressive Hall of Fame level, earn an undergraduate psychology degree, be inducted into Psi Chi, obtain a master’s degree in human factors with a concentration in psychology from Columbia Teachers College (now Columbia University), intern at the U.S.N. Groton Submarine Base, New London, CT (where he was a member of a research team establishing chromaticity limits that became part of a Human Factors Design Guide), and finally, become Director of Human Resources for an international corporation?”
Amazingly, George’s soccer career started in 1948 at the age of 13 years when he played alongside his father, also a National Soccer Hall of Famer. George and his father, Jim are the only father–son inductees in the Hall of Fame. George’s father, along with several others, organized the Connecticut State Amateur League and started the Greenport United team. When George began playing for Greenport, his dad joined him for two seasons as a player-coach. George had amazing speed, agility, fantastic ball handling skills, and knew how to find the back of the net. These talents were brought to perfection playing alongside his father.
As a player, George was 5' 4" tall and weighed about 140 pounds. He played for Greenport United in the Connecticut State Amateur League that won the league championship in 1951. He signed with the German Hungarians of the German American Soccer League (GASL). For the next three seasons, his team won three consecutive league championships, as well as the 1956 New York State Cup. George was voted by the fans as Most Valuable Player in 1953 and named to the All-Star Team. He was selected several more times to play on the American Soccer League’s All-Star Team.
During the 1957 season, George suffered an injury to his left knee that ended his soccer career. Even with an injury shortened season, he led the American Soccer League with thirteen goals. George represented the United States in both the World Cup Qualifier against Mexico and the Pan American Games where they won the Bronze Medal. From 1958 to 1960, George served in the U.S. Army. Stationed near Chicago, he was a guest player with the city’s Red Lions Soccer Team.
After his stint in the army, George now needed to seek out a more stable career. In 1960, he was awarded a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Bridgeport. Bridgeport was a soccer powerhouse. Unfortunately, an archaic NCAA rule banned him from playing collegiate soccer. At that time, amateur athletes who played on teams fielding professional players were ineligible to play those collegiate sports. Happily, Bridgeport honoured George’s scholarship and reassigned him to coach the freshman soccer and varsity tennis teams.
Now this is where George’s story takes an unusual twist in favor of psychology and Psi Chi. Like so many college students, George was at a loss as to his life after graduation. He sought guidance from the counseling office at Bridgeport. He was administered several scales including the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. The “Strong” compares an individual’s pattern of responses to the pattern of responses of people of different types and in different occupations. The Strong, named after E. K. Strong, was developed in the 1920s. Over the years, it has been revised many times to update the questions and the professions listed (see also Holland Scale). During one of George’s personal interviews, the results of the various surveys were given to him as to his interests. One of the problems with the “Strong” Scale is that on occasion it has been misidentified as a person’s “interest” and not for the author of the scale. This misinterpretation paved the way for George’s future career choice.
George received the following results from a Certified Psychologist at the Guidance Office:
“Vocations with Greatest Similarity of Interest:”
- Advertising Man
- (Strong) Psychologist
- Personnel Manager
- School Administrator
George saw “#4 (Strong) Psychologist”. Since none of the other prospective careers were listed with the term Strong, he assumed that he had a Strong interest, and this would be the future career goal to pursue. That was a major “win” for Psi Chi and psychology.
His interpersonal skills, managerial ability, and especially his love of soccer was very evident throughout his professional career. While a human resource manager for Exxon, George worked in several international locations in the Middle East, Canada, as well as Texas, Colorado, and New Jersey. At each of these locations, George organized soccer associations, played the game including street soccer in the Middle East, and coached when there was a need.
In 1999, George and his wife Peggy moved to Oneonta, New York, where they both became integral parts of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. George served as Executive Director and his wife served as Archive Manager. While serving as Chair of the Eligibility and Awards Committee, he spearheaded a complete revision of eligibility rules and streamlined the voting policies and procedures. He also initiated the Hall's newsletter, The Hall of Famer. It should be noted that George's service to the National Soccer Hall of Fame was only part of his commitment to the Oneonta community. He soon became involved in the Oneonta Rotary, was elected its President, and during a challenging transition of leadership used his considerable skills in reorganizing and leading the club in a more positive direction. He also served on the local Rotary Foundation Board, to which he was a generous donor, which also funded a scholarship at the local high school. In addition, he joined the Board of Opportunities for Otsego, a community action program. He served for several years on that board and on its Personnel Committee. As a Personnel Committee member, he used his past knowledge of human resources to create some new procedures for the CEO evaluation and other officers, as well. Finally, he was asked to serve pro tem as a member of the search committee choosing the new CEO of Catskill Area Hospice, again at a time of crucial leadership transition.
Reexamining the list of career choices for George, it seems obvious now that George was destined to be a psychologist and in human resources. He had all the requisite skills for working with people, focusing their efforts, and was a successful organizer, mentor, and a great coach. All George needed was a Strong nudge to choose psychology.
George C. Brown (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 12, 2019, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Brown_(soccer)
Strong Vocational Interest Bank (n.d.). In Wikia.org. Retrieved November 12, 2019, from http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Strong_Vocational_Interest_Blank
Lawrence T. Guzy, PhD, is an Emeritus Distinguished Teaching Professor at the State University of NY at Oneonta where he taught and mentored student researchers for 39 years. He continues to volunteer as a research mentor. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from John Carroll University and PhD from the University at Buffalo. He received Fellowships to conduct research at NASA Ames, California; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio; Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas; and the Israel National Police. He is a Fellow - Aerospace Human Factors Association and Associate Fellow - Aerospace Medical Association.
Lawrence T. Guzy, PhD
Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emeritus
Department of Psychology
State University of New York at Oneonta
Oneonta, NY 13820