Katharine (“Kathy”) Margaret Downing Myers died at the age of 93 on January 30, 2020 in her home in the senior community of Kendal in Kennett Square, PA. She is deeply loved and remembered by her four children, Roland Heisler, Hugh Heisler, Katie Heisler, and Michele Heisler; grandchildren, Simon Sadinsky, Sophie Sadinsky, Peter Tappenden, and Andie Tappenden; daughter-in-law Miriam Shoshana Sadinsky; and son-in-law Jamie Tappenden; Simon’s wife Mairi McConnochie; great-grandchildren Neve and Finley Sadinsky; and many close friends and colleagues. Her two husbands, Charles C. Heisler (1921-1988) and Peter B. Myers (1926-2018) died before her. She will also be sorely missed by her longtime friend and assistant Karen Burns.
Kathy, born on April 4, 1926, was raised by her mother Katharine Jaeger Downing. Her father Hugh Wagner Downing, an early army aviator in the US army Signal Corps, died in a military airplane crash the same year she was born. When she was a young child, she and her mother moved to Swarthmore, PA where she developed lifelong friends, including Trudy Enders Huntington, who lived close to her at Kendal and who Kathy saw almost daily. When Kathy was 12 she met Peter Myers and his parents Isabel and Clarence (“Chief”) Myers. Peter became a dear friend and her second husband and his parents became second parents to her, with Isabel igniting in Kathy a lifelong interest in understanding human development and how to enhance people’s understanding of themselves and others. She later directed that interest toward improving and assuring the scientific integrity of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] that Isabel first developed.
An enthusiastic athlete and outdoorswoman, Kathy played lacrosse and field hockey through college. As a scholarship student at Vassar College she was selected to play on the All-American Lacrosse team and graduated with a major in Economics in 1946 at the age of 20. After graduation, when she applied to Penn’s Wharton School of Business, the Dean of Admissions told her that a business education would be “wasted on a woman who would just get married and have babies.” She still managed to complete organizational development graduate classes at Wharton and then went to work on personnel issues for the management consulting firm Edward N. Hay and Associates in Philadelphia. During her years of raising four children, she directed her passion and energy to serving on the boards of the League of Women Voters, the Swarthmore School Board, working on projects to achieve school racial integration for the American Friends Service, completing a master’s degree in human development from Bryn Mawr College, working as a high school teacher and serving as a high school and then community college guidance counselor. She had a tremendous gift for making each of her four children and her many friends and students feel unconditionally loved and supported in their own distinct interests.
Kathy found her true professional calling when she dedicated herself to expanding the ethical use of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). She worked closely with her then mother-in-law Isabel Myers in Isabel’s final years of life to enhance the scientific integrity of the MBTI and complete Isabel’s seminal book on the MBTI, Gifts Differing. Upon Isabel’s death in 1980, Kathy and Peter Myers became co-owners of the MBTI’s copyright and both took that responsibility very seriously. Kathy became the first President of the Association for Psychological Type (APT) and provided consistent support for the nonprofit organization The Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT). She helped develop the first rigorous Qualifying Programs for counselors who would administer the MBTI responsibly and led multiple workshops and training courses, including a longstanding course offered at the Quaker retreat center Pendle Hill. She wrote many articles and contributed to several books on use of psychological type, including co-authoring Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development and the book Navigating Midlife: Using Typology as a Guide, which built on a workshop on mid-life development she created and taught for many years at Pendle Hill. Under Peter and Kathy’s stewardship in close collaboration with publisher CPP, Inc. (now The Myers–Briggs Company), the MBTI became the most widely used personality assessment tool in the world, used by individuals, religious and educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and companies for individual and team development. In their later years, together they created the Myers and Briggs Foundation that funds psychometric and outcomes research on applications of psychological type.
Kathy lived fully and passionately. She continued to be involved in social justice advocacy through her 80’s and immersed herself in philanthropic work, especially with the Chester Children’s Chorus and associated school in Chester, PA. She often quoted the closing lines from Middlemarch, a favorite book, that “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life…..” She herself lived such a life of faith and generous contribution.
A Memorial will be held Saturday, March 28 at 1:00 PM at Kendal.
Memorial ServiceMarch 28, 2020 1:00PM Kendal at Longwood
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