Dr. James C. Tolan dies at age 56

Psychologist was also a consultant to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

August 13, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. James Carroll Tolan, a noted clinical psychologist whose field of expertise was working with patients with developmental disabilities, died Aug. 6 of lung cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The longtime Reisterstown resident was 56.

Born in Washington, Dr. Tolan was adopted as an infant and raised in Wayne, Pa. His adoptive father was in real estate sales, and his mother was a homemaker.

As a young man, he dropped out of high school and later earned his General Educational Development certificate.

"He was troubled and went through some tough years then, but later earned his GED, which he kept framed in his office. He was proud of that," said his wife of 35 years and college sweetheart, the former Karyn Harner, who works with the developmentally disabled.

Dr. Tolan earned a bachelor's degree in 1975 from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and a master's degree two years later in psychology from Auburn University. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology, also from Auburn, in 1981.

While at Auburn, he wrote his doctoral dissertation on personality types associated with juvenile delinquency.

After completing an internship in psychology at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Tolan worked as an assistant unit director at the Center for Behavior Management at Springfield State Hospital Center in Sykesville.

"He went into private practice in 1982," said his wife, who assisted and helped manage his Reisterstown psychology practice.

"Jim was a dedicated clinical psychologist in the manner that his profession identifies as the gold standard — a scientist practitioner," said Dr. Joseph G. Cunningham, professor of psychology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., who got to know the Tolans 30 years ago when he was a faculty member at Auburn.

"To talk for five minutes with Jim was to assume that he and Karyn had a third child, whose name was Data. His every treatment plan, forensic assessment, outcome evaluation or staff consultation reflected the application of his wisdom and compassion to the objective measurement and analysis of data," Dr. Cunningham said.

"He improved the lives of people with developmental disabilities throughout his career, both at work and on the Little League baseball field, and his efforts at creating new methods and procedures for measuring their needs and their growth in treatment will continue to improve outcomes for years to come," he said.

In 1991, with the sponsorship of the Orioles Advocates, Dr. Tolan co-founded the Champion League of Reisterstown, a softball league for children with developmental disabilities, which was expanded in 1994 to include the Challenger League of Catonsville.

Again with the help of the Orioles Advocates in 1999, Dr. Tolan organized and served as host of a statewide daylong softball tournament and picnic that brought children with disabilities not only from Maryland but also Northern Virginia.

In addition to his private practice, Dr. Tolan served from 1997 until 2004 as clinical director for the state Developmental Disabilities Administration-funded Behavioral Support Services for Central Maryland.

His consultation expertise was sought after by many government agencies such as the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Baltimore County and Harford County departments of social services, ARC of Carroll County, F.X. Gallagher Services, Bello Machre and the Benedictine Open Community Center.

Since 1999, Dr. Tolan had been a consultant to the department of psychology at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center. He also was a prolific contributor to academic and psychological journals.

His professional memberships included the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavioral Analysis and the Maryland Association for Behavioral Analysis.

Four days before the end of his life, Dr. Tolan returned from Bermuda, where he had been vacationing with his wife.

"During the last week of his life," Mrs. Tolan said, "he was still dictating reports for work."

Dr. Tolan was a diehard Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers fan, and delighted in taking family and friends to Philadelphia for games, family members said.

He also enjoyed vacationing in Avalon, N.J., and attending concerts.

He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Reisterstown, where services were held Wednesday.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Tolan is survived by a son, Robert H. "Rob" Tolan of Reisterstown; a daughter, Jayme C. Tolan of Los Angeles; and a sister, Clare Tolan Smith of Baltimore.


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