Douglas H. Sprenkle, 77, died peacefully in his sleep on August 16, 2018, from pancreatic cancer. He was a wonderful man, with a powerful love for his family, and for the families of others through his long and fruitful career in the field of marriage and family therapy. He also loved Steamboat Springs, CO, where he enjoyed four blessed years of retirement with his wife, Sidney Moon.
Doug was born in Orange, New Jersey. At six months, the first word he spoke was “light,” an early indication of his precocious intellectual abilities. He grew up in in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the middle child in a warm and loving family with three children. As a youngster, he was bright and inquisitive. In high school he starred in track, running the half-mile in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. He and his brother were both Eagle Scouts.
Doug’s career path was rich, beginning with a bachelor’s degree in Government from Wesleyan (1963) and a masters from Princeton Theological Seminary (1967). He interned at the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford in 1965 and served as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Henrietta, NY, for three years, then continued his education with a masters (1973) and doctorate (1975) in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. He spent his entire post-doctoral career of 39 years in the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program at Purdue University. He was Purdue’s MFT program director from 1985-1994 and again from 2003-2014. Throughout his career, he maintained a small private practice where he provided direct assistance to families in crisis. Doug was a prolific author who wrote over 130 refereed journal articles and book chapters and 10 books. He particularly enjoyed synthesizing, integrating, and theory development. His primary focus in the last decade of his life was writing widely cited work providing evidence that common factors, such as a strong therapeutic alliance, underlie the success of various family therapy approaches. Doug was also an outstanding contributor to his professional association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). From 2000-2007, he edited the AAMFT’s flagship journal, The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. He served as a member of the AAMFT research committee, treasurer, and a member of the Board of Directors. He was also the first person in the history of his profession to win major career achievement awards in teaching, research, and service, as well as the field’s highest honor, the Outstanding Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy.
In retirement, Doug served on the Board of Routt County United Way, taught adults at Heart of Steamboat UMC, and enjoyed skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and biking with friends and family. Doug is survived by his wife, Sidney Moon (Steamboat), his twin sons from a previous marriage: Mark Sprenkle and his wife Trudie (Minneapolis) and Robert Sprenkle and his wife Sue (Denver), stepson, Alex Moon (West Lafayette, IN), three grandchildren, Brianne, Caroline, & Reid, his older brother Dick Sprenkle and his wife Nancy (Pittsford, NY) and his sister, Chris Jones (Charlotte, NC). He was predeceased by his parents, Charlotte and Kohr Sprenkle, and brother-in-law, Bill Jones. A Celebration of Life will be held on October 7th at 3:00pm at Heart of Steamboat UMC. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the AAMFT Research and Education Foundation, Heart of Steamboat UMC, or your local United Way.
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