Dr. Duane Buhrmester, associate dean of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) and a professor of psychological sciences at UT Dallas, died in a hiking accident in southern Colorado in late July. His wife, Linda, also died in the accident.
Buhrmester was honored last fall for 20 years of service to UT Dallas. He was an active and respected researcher and teacher. In his administrative role, he served on vital University committees and worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students, acting as an enthusiastic mentor to many.
The Buhrmesters are survived by their sons, Michael, who lives in Austin, and Ryan, who lives in Denton.
Buhrmester was born in 1952 in Ritzville, Washington. He and Linda married in 1977. They shared a passion for the outdoors and athletic pursuits. Buhrmester trained as a developmental psychologist at the University of Denver and received his PhD in 1983.
“Duane Buhrmester was one of the true leaders of the University,” said Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS. “His careful thinking and commitment to building and improving the University were critical ingredients of our success. But, perhaps even more important, was his commitment to student success. He spent countless hours mentoring and helping students, with many whose lives that he touched going on to successful, productive careers. Outside of the University, he loved camping, hiking and climbing with his family, and was an extraordinary athlete.”
The Buhrmesters were hiking in Crestone Needle, a popular climbing site in Custer County, Colo. Their family reported them missing after they failed to return from the trip on the date expected. Their bodies were discovered by a search and rescue team.
Colleagues at UT Dallas said the Buhrmesters were avid hikers and frequently made trips west to pursue their interest. Details regarding the circumstances of the accident are not yet known, though news reports indicate a severe storm may have overtaken the couple while they were in a remote location.
Buhrmester’s research in recent years centered on social development during middle childhood and adolescence. He focused primarily on close friendships, romantic relationships and parent-adolescent relationships. One of his main contentions was that during early adolescence, teenagers become preoccupied with a set of interpersonal issues that give rise to a fundamental reorganization of the functional structure of their social networks.
Buhrmester served on advisory and leadership panels for many professional organizations and his research was published in a variety of top-level developmental psychology journals. He was on the editorial board of the International Journal of Behavioral Development and frequently spoke at international psychological conferences.
Buhrmester also played a major role in the lives of many students at UT Dallas. Holly Roelse, a PhD student, worked with him as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student.
"He had such attention to detail and yet he was such a calm presence,” she said. “He was truly interested in his students’ research and always full of fresh suggestions about how to test ideas.”
Hillery Cross, another PhD student working with Buhrmester, said he served as a guide for undergraduate students who were trying to decide on a career path. “He was great with all of the students,” she said. “He was always there to give his time.”
Roelse said he will be greatly missed throughout the University.
"I’m sure he was one of the best professors and administrators this University has ever had,” she said.
UT Dallas hosted a memorial service for the Buhrmesters on Aug. 6 in the Jonsson Performance Hall. An overflow crowd of family, friends and former students joined the university community in honoring the couple. Those wishing to make an acknowledgement of the Buhrmesters may contribute online or send a donation to:
Buhrmester Student Development Fund
The University of Texas at Dallas
Office of Development and Alumni Relations
800 W. Campbell Road
Richardson, TX 75080