Notices of the passing of members of the Carleton community. For notices of alumni passings, please see Alumni Farewells.

Peter Prenzel-Guthrie

December 16, 2013

Peter Prenzel-Guthrie, age 87, passed away on Sunday, Dec. 15th. Peter taught Psychology at Carleton from 1960 until 1992. His interests included the history of this country's treatment of people with mental retardation, the nature, causes, and treatment of developmental delay, and related topics in the areas of learning, cognition, and motivation.

Peter was known as a dedicated teacher and mentor. Neil Lutsky writes that "Peter hired me, and one of the attractions of Carleton was the prospect of working with him. I was fortunate to have him as a colleague. He was as kind and supportive a soul as I have ever met. He cared for and encouraged faculty in his role as department chair. He was warm and positive and set the highest personal example of dedication to students. He would do whatever it took to help, encourage, and prod students. He enjoyed psychology and shared his enthusiasm with students and colleagues."

Peter was also known for his sense of humor and storytelling. Kathie Galotti remembers his "stories about the earlier days of psychology at Carleton, where faculty would try to capture pigeons from the chapel bell tower (to use as laboratory subjects); stories of hilarious comps proposals generated by students over the years—the most memorable of which to me was one that began, 'I will take 1000 chimpanzees and divide them into an experimental and control group...'. He is sadly missed but remembered with a big smile."

There will be a memorial service for Peter on Saturday, January 4th, at 2pm in the Carleton Chapel. A more complete obituary will be forthcoming. Remembrances of Peter may be left at the Carleton "Farewells" site at:

Please hold all of Peter's family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

In sorrow and faith,
Carolyn Fure-Slocum
College Chaplain


  • December 18 2013 at 11:43 am
    Julie Neiworth

    Peter was always a joy to have around. I was hired as his replacement in our dept and I really enjoyed our interactions, his humor, and the support Peter provided. I'll never forget my interview with Peter in 1988 when he asked if we could take a walk and then proceeded to quiz me on latin phrases, just to see how "liberal artsy" I really was. Later, I learned our dept history from Peter including the other buildings we resided in and humorous stories of faculty and student antics over the years. Peter used to be the one to pick up students who had gotten themselves stranded, for example, by trying to "ride the rails" by jumping on a slow-moving train in Northfield, only to find themselves in Mankato, or Red Wing without a way back. Peter used to visit my learning class to talk about applications of reward and punishment principles to change human behavior, and he liked to shock the students by telling his own personal story of self-punishment for smoking cigarettes, which involved a car battery wired to the foil on the cigarette case placed conveniently within reach while he graded papers. I don't know anyone else (other than Skinner himself) who reveled in the world of rewards and punishers as well as Peter. Peter also knew the importance of "showing up" and he often would attend speaker events, lunches, social occasions, and important milestones for students. He was a great colleague and friend.

  • January 2 2014 at 10:38 am
    Kathie Galotti

    I enjoyed Peter most for his wonderful stories.  Always colorful and humorous, they gave a sense of Carleton in its earlier days.  There were hilarious ones about going to the bell tower of the chapel to capture pigeons for training experiments; of various student pranks; of funny things students had proposed for their comps projects; of his dad and the early days of behaviorism in American psychology.  Also, he was the one who told me all about cow-tipping, a sport I have not personally partaken of, but feel from his descriptions as if I had.

    It inspired me how Peter was able to keep abreast of changes in cognitive psychology long after he'd left the infrastructure of graduate school.  I always hoped I could follow his example--having tried, I know it is not easy!

     It was a privilege to be invited to Peter and Regina's wedding in the late 1980's.   I remember thinking then (and ever since) how lucky they were to have found one another. 

     Peter will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by all who knew him.  




  • January 2 2014 at 10:45 am
    Seth Greenberg

    By the time arrived at Carleton Peter was no longer with the Psychology Department, but fortunately I had the opportunity to speak with him at a few luncheons and around the mailbox, when he picked up his mail. Peter loved his department. Although retired for a number of years, he always took an interest in the department's health and progress. He held a deep affection for what he helped to fashion and like a proud parent enjoyed watching it mature. Even my few interactions with Peter led me to understand why he was so beloved. Peter had a gentle and considerate nature. He loved to explore the lives others. He knew how to communicate and exhibited uncommon passion for the welfare of others. My best wishes to my colleagues, Peter's family, and to all those whose Peter's kindness touched. 

  • January 3 2014 at 2:16 pm
    Sharon Akimoto

    I will miss Peter greatly.  He was so very kind, generous and warm.  He always had a twinkle in his eye and seemed genuinely glad to connect.   I learned a lot from him.   Simple questions often led to rich and meaningful conversations.   He was genuinely excited about the nature of psychological phenomenon and it rubbed off.   I was greatly inspired by his scientific curiosity and commitment to bettering the lives of others.   And on a practical level, I remember receiving many useful tips especially those that made Minnesota seem like such a nice place to live.  He had me convinced of the benefits of folding kayaks and bicycles and the joys of winter.   He encouraged me not only to walk on the frozen lakes but also drive out onto them and view the communities that form out there.   And although I have yet to witness the ice breakup on the Mississippi river, I look for it every spring and imagine the beautiful sounds and sights that Peter described to me when I first arrived here.  I will always remember Peter with gratitude and fondness.   

  • January 3 2014 at 7:15 pm
    Mel Bowman
    My first campus job was reading to Peter. I am privileged to have known him, and will miss all his stories, his advice, and his smile.
  • January 4 2014 at 8:47 pm
    Valerie Sims
    I was the psychology department office aide in 1989-1990. One of my tasks was to read mail to Peter. I loved talking to him and getting his take on whatever was happening in the department. I also remember all the work he did for the mentally disabled, and how he inspired students to do the same. What an intelligent and interesting man he was.
  • March 17 2014 at 1:06 pm
    Scott Mattson
    Sad to read this, even belatedly. He was such a nice, intelligent, open-minded, and knowledgeable man. I met with him weekly for one-on-one in the independent study I had set up with him. Because of sight issues, I read my written reports to him, which is when I started to become a better editor. He encouraged me to pursue my interests in both the psychology and history of sex, gender, and sexuality. We would sit an hour a week for a year. I would share my discoveries about social constructionism and post modern notions of identity, community . . .. In trade, he would question, make connections, and contribute ideas from his vast storehouse of knowledge, a lot like the style of education in antiquity. It meant a great deal to me, as an out, open researcher of sexuality that Peter was very warm and supportive. It was personally and academically reassuring that didn't flinch over more "controversial" content or have his behaviourism bristle over my sometimes Freudo-Marxist assertions. He was a very compassionate and empathetic person. I'm extremely glad for and appreciative of both the opportunity and benefits of having him as a professor.

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