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C. Keith Conners
University of Chicago, 1953, B.A., Liberal Arts
Oxford University, 1955, M.A., Philosophy, Psychology & Physiology
Stanford University, 1956
Harvard University, 1960, Ph.D., Clinical Psychology
Keith Conners was born and raised in Utah with an older sister and a twin sister. He spent his first year in school in a one-room schoolhouse in Ophir, Utah. After his appendix ruptured, his family moved to Salt Lake City to obtain better medical treatment. At 15, he skipped most of high school and went to study in Chicago. He became a clinical psychologist and founded the ADHD program at Duke University. He has done a number of studies of how foods affect attention in children, including writing a book called Feeding the Brain. Although he is retired, he occasionally lectures and consults. He also spends his time, writing, reading, and painting oil and watercolors. He credits the Rhodes experience for pointing him to psychology as his profession, as well as providing him with peak experiences that have lasted a lifetime.
Q. I read that you were born in Bingham, Utah. At what age did you move to Salt Lake City?
From Bingham, I moved to a little mountain village called Ophir. Ophir in the Bible was the place where King Solomon’s mines were supposedly located. It was a small town that served a large mining operation nearby called The Hidden Treasure. I lived in this canyon town until I was five. I still regard that experience as “a hidden treasure” in my growing up.
It was there that I did my first “psychotherapy” at the age of four. There was a lady in her late 80s named Mrs. Howerth, who lived down the road. On the way to work, my dad walked past her house. He had to climb over a mountain about five miles to where they were mining. He did that every day and learned that Mrs. Howerth who lived on his was was there with nobody to take care of her.
He suggested to me that it would be nice if I would take her a pot of soup. So I lugged a pot of soup to her little house where she had chickens, and introduced myself. She was gracious and charming, and sat in one small room with the rest of the house closed off. I sat in a chair and she started talking with me. She was very glad to have company and liked to talk about her life. She would have been one of the original pioneers in that part of the country before Utah was a state. She had a husband who had long since passed away, and there was a portrait of him that sat behind her. He was in a cowboy hat and had a red beard. She told a lot of really interesting stories about their pioneer days. I would sit there for hours listening to her tell these stories. A day or two later, I would come back and bring her some more food, or groceries, or just to listen to her stories. That was how I learned to sit still and listen for a long time to people’s life stories. It is one of my fondest memories, not only because of the beauty of the surroundings, but also because of the quiet harmony with adults who allowed us to explore freely while still feeling safe wandering through the valley unattended most of the time.
I lived there until I had a ruptured appendix, when they rushed me to a hospital in Salt Lake City. I had contracted peritonitis and in those days with no antibiotics, it was a fairly serious event. Since there was no hospital, or medical care near the canyon, we moved to Salt Lake in 1939. I remember that time fairly vividly. When I was getting treatments for peritonitis, I remember seeing headlines in the newspaper that Hitler invaded Poland. I would have been six years old. I grew up in Salt Lake until the end of the Second World War.
Gerrit Gong was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. He is the eldest of three siblings. Both of his parents were educators. His father was a university professor and his mother was an elementary school teacher. He has taught at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and and Brigham Young University. In the mid ‘80s, he worked for the U.S. government as special assistant to the Undersecretary of State at the State Department and special assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, China. At the time of this interview, he was the assistant to the president of Brigham Young University in Utah, focusing on planning and assessment. He is now a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.