Leona Elizabeth Tyler was born on May 10, 1906 in Chetek, Wisconsin. Her family moved to northern Minnesota amidst the Mesabi Iron Range when she was a girl. Tyler graduated with her BA in English from the University of Minnesota at the age of 19. After graduating, she became a teacher for the next 13 years. While taking a summer course at the University of Minnesota on individual differences from Professor Donald Patterson, Tyler was persuaded to enter the university's PhD program in psychology. She completed her PhD in 1941 with a dissertation on the development of high school female interests. This dissertation became the 1941 article, The Measured Interests of Adolescent Girls.
Tyler took a position in the psychology department at the University of Oregon in 1940. Leona taught individual differences, testing, and counseling while reaching across to the counseling and education departments to advise graduate students. At the conclusion of World War II, Tyler developed a veteran's counseling service at the university. This service would develop into the University Counseling Center. In 1965, she became dean of the Graduate School at Oregon and remained there until mandatory retirement in 1971. Upon retirement, she became a professor and dean emeritus.
Tyler's research was vast and varied. She wrote over 100 articles and books on a variety of subjects in psychology. Her interest in individual differences led to her 1947 work The Psychology of Human Differences. Her work on vocational decisions revealed that people cared more about career dislikes and avoidances than positive features of jobs. Tyler developed the Choice Pattern Technique that asked people to indicate beliefs about occupations and leisure activities. Her research on this method can be found in her book The Work of the Counselor. In the late 1960s she helped revise Florence Goodenough's text Developmental Psychology. Her other major works include the 1962 book Clinical Psychology, the 1978 book Individuality: Human possibilities and personal choice in the psychological development of men and women, and the 1983 book Thinking Creatively: A New Approach to Psychology and Individual Lives.
Tyler was professionally active at the university, state, and national levels. She worked on many university and professional committees as well as independent organizations such as Amnesty International. In 1973, she became the 81st President of the American Psychological Association and only the fourth woman to hold that position. Her activity in APA continued with positions on the Board of Directors (1966-68, 1971-74), Policy and Planning Board (1968-70), and Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility (1980-82). Her works has garnered her awards such as the E.K. Strong Gold Medal for Interest Measurement, Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota, Distinguished Service Award from the University of Oregon and the American Psychological Foundation's Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Public Interest. Division 17 of the APA (Counseling Psychology) has named its highest award after Tyler. Tyler passed away on April 29, 1993.
From the guide to the Leona E. Tyler papers, 1933-1993, (Center for the History of Psychology)