From helping a children’s hospital better serve the emotional needs of its patients to giving parenting advice on WCCO radio, Marvin Ack wanted to make sure that the voice of children was heard.
A child psychologist who had received training in Freud’s method of psychoanalysis — even working at one point with Freud’s daughter, Anna — Ack pioneered methods in children’s health care while he served on staff at what was then a new children’s hospital in Minneapolis in the 1970s.
Ack died May 18 at age 93.
In addition to his medical career, Ack was perhaps best known for regular stints on the Boone and Erickson show on WCCO radio, where he dispensed child-rearing advice to callers perplexed about the art of parenting.
“After he had those years on the Boone and Erickson show, people would recognize my name and ask, ‘Are you Marvin’s daughter?’” said Sheryl Strauss. “You can imagine me as a teenager giving an eye roll and saying, ‘Yeah, that is my dad.’ ”
Raised in New York and New Jersey by Russian immigrant parents, Ack saw his educational progress take a hit when he was expelled from high school.
“He was in a ground-floor classroom and had gone out of the window to get a smoke,” said Strauss. “I think the principal was so tired of dealing with him he had to get expelled.”
When World War II started, Ack enlisted, helping set up radar stations at air bases in the United Kingdom. While he was stationed there, he met Corrine Lester, whom he would later marry.
After the war, he got his GED, and later went on to get both his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in four years. He eventually worked for several years at the nationally known Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric hospital which was then based in Topeka, Kan.
In the 1970s, he was recruited to join the staff of the new Minneapolis children’s hospital, now known as Children’s Hospital and Clinics, which also includes a hospital campus in St. Paul.
“I know that he was most proud of his work at Children’s,” said Strauss. “He felt that children were so easily overlooked and he was making sure that their voice was heard.”
Ack helped develop policies that were designed to reduce the traumatic effects of a hospital stay and at the same time help children recover medically.
“He would try to find out what caused a child to be afraid and educate the staff on how to avoid the barriers and address the fears while their medical issues were being treated,” Strauss said.
Or as Ack put it in an interview in 1982:
“It’s what every child requires and deserves,” he told the New York Times. “Coming to the hospital doesn’t have to be bad.”
In the 1980s, Ack left the hospital but continued to work with children in a private practice.
He was known for being a great teller of jokes, both short and long, and would at times deliver them in a variety of dialects.
He also was an avid sportsman, playing tennis and golf long into his retirement years.
When he and his wife lived for a time in Charleston, W. Va., Ack played on a baseball team, the West Side Tigers.
In addition to Strauss, Ack is survived by daughter Barbara Sawyer, and son Bradley Ack, as well as seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Services are pending.