Closing the Circle: ISR Founder’s Daughter Finds an Unusual Way to Give

Patricia Likert Pohlman has always been proud of her parents and her legacy. Sometimes that required speaking up.

In the process of getting her Ph.D. in psychology from Ohio State and practicing as a counseling psychologist, it wasn’t unusual to hear friends and colleagues refer to the Likert Scale, a commonly used system for tabulating questionnaire responses based on a “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” rating scale.

Patricia Likert Pohlman and her father, ISR Founder, Rensis Likert Photo courtesy of Patricia Likert Pohlman

Usually, though, the speaker pronounced the first syllable of Likert to rhyme with “bike.” It was Pohlman’s job to gently but insistently explain that the proper pronunciation was “lick.” You see, she’d say if the person protested, the scale was created by and named after my father.

As the daughter of ISR founder Rensis Likert and Jane Gibson Likert, a founder of U-M’s Center for the Education of Women, Pohlman knew her way around ISR and the university. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science at U-M, and stayed in close contact with the Ann Arbor community after moving to Ohio.

Over the years, Pohlman has made several gifts to the Rensis Likert Fund in Research in Survey Methodology, which supports dissertation research on cutting edge topics in survey methodology and travel for Ph.D. students in the Program in Survey Methodology.

But as she turned 80, Pohlman wanted to find a new way to give to the fund. The answer: She donated her interest in the ongoing royalties from a spatial reasoning test developed by her father that continues to be used by prospective engineering students, and from several publications written by her father and by her parents together—books like New Patterns of Management, published in 1961, and New Ways of Managing Conflict, published in 1976.

“Mom’s really excited about it,” says son Bill Pohlman, who is facilitating the process. It’s a particular pleasure, he says, for her to see Likert’s ideas still contributing some 65 years after ISR’s founding. “This sense of completing the circle is really what’s meaningful. Through the people who are still interested in Rennie’s work, the Institute—which, of course, meant a lot to him—is going to benefit.”