World-renowned researcher honors Cummings Center with $5.9M endowed gift


Unknown.pngThe Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology (Cummings Center) at The University of Akron (UA) has been honored with a generous gift of more than $5.9 million from the estate of Dr. R. Allen Gardner to create The Cummings Center Endowed Fund.

The Cummings Center Endowed Fund will help the Archives and Museum to care for its many irreplaceable collections, which focus on unique, iconic and breakthrough research in psychology. This one-of-a-kind museum features home movies of Sigmund Freud, artifacts from the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment, the simulated shock generator used in Stanley Milgram's studies of obedience, and the inflatable “Bobo” doll used to study the impact of television violence on children.

Gardner, a noted psychologist and world-renowned researcher in the field of comparative psychology at the University of Nevada Reno, gained international attention for his hands-on approach to teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to a female chimpanzee named Washoe. Along with his late wife, zoologist Dr. Beatrix Tugendhut Gardner, the couple turned their home into a research compound where the chimps lived with them and were fully immersed in learning ASL.

In his estate, Gardner, who passed away last year at the age of 91, honored the Cummings Center with a $5.9 million gift, in addition to bequeathing his intellectual property (films, books, papers, etc.) to the Archives.

“Allen and Beatrix Gardner were pioneers in the study of nonhuman language, challenging our ideas about the limits of nonhuman primate communication,” said Dr. Cathy Faye, executive director of the Cummings Center. “The rich collection of images, films, and documents now housed at The University of Akron tells the story of how the Gardners raised chimpanzees as they would human children on their ranch in Reno, Nevada.”

The Gardners adopted the chimpanzee Washoe in 1966 and raised her with the objective to learn how much chimps were like humans. Early results from 1967 showed Washoe had learned signs for hundreds of words and had created expressions like “water birds” for a pair of swans and “open flower” to gain admittance to a flower garden. The couple did similar tests with four more chimpanzees: Moja, Pili, Tatu and Dar.

“We are so pleased that the Gardners entrusted the Cummings Center with such a generous financial contribution and with the archival records of their work,” said Faye. “It is truly a unique collection that we look forward to sharing with the public in the future.”

For more information on the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, visit