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Obituaries

Mary Meeker, 82; Created a Way to Test and Strengthen Children's Intellectual Abilities

November 02, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Mary Meeker, a psychologist who developed a widely used program to test and strengthen the intellectual abilities of children, died of breast cancer Oct. 4 in Vida, Ore. She was 82.

Meeker's program was based on the theories of the late J.P. Guilford, a USC professor whose ideas about the components of intelligence were used to select pilots for the U.S. military during World War II. Meeker, who was a student of Guilford's, applied his ideas to education, ultimately devising a system for pinpointing and remedying common learning problems.

About 450 schools around the country use Meeker's Structure of the Intellect tests, which gauge a child's competence in 26 areas, such as visual discrimination (the ability to discern between a "b" and a "d," for instance), psychomotor coordination and creativity with words and ideas.

The program offers exercises to strengthen deficient skills, including memory and sequencing games and activities to increase oral language experiences. Many of the exercises involve everyday tasks, such as sorting laundry for a child who has problems with categorization.

Meeker founded the Structure of the Intellect Institute in El Segundo in 1969 to market the tests and training materials. She ran the company with her husband, Robert, a former USC education researcher. In the late 1980s, the Meekers moved the business to Oregon.

Raised in Port Arthur, Texas, Meeker entered the University of Texas when she was 15 and graduated with a psychology degree at 18. She worked as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles before returning to school to obtain a doctorate in educational psychology at USC in 1966.

At USC, Guilford became her mentor and urged her to explore possible uses of his theory to enhance education. She later taught at USC, Loyola-Marymount and Cal State Northridge, and lectured at Harvard and the University of British Columbia. She was active for years on the board of the National Assn. for Gifted Children.

Meeker is survived by her husband, Robert Meeker; daughters Jessica Anderson-Maxwell of Eugene, Ore., Valerie Maxwell of Manhattan Beach and Heather Meeker of Palo Alto; and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Dr. Mary Meeker Honorary Scholarship Fund, c/o Andrew Bassett, National Assn. for Gifted Children, 1707 L St. N.W., Suite 550, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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