Richard Welton Coan, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Arizona, resides in Tucson.
As a child he began composing music and writing stories and poems. He contemplated a career as a musician or writer, but he was also intrigued by the puzzles of human consciousness, the sense of personal identity, and the varied idiosyncrasies of the people he knew. His search for understanding led him to the study of psychology and ultimately to a career in that field. At both the University of California and the University of Southern California, he pursued graduate studies leading to a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1955.
As a professor, he specialized in personality theory and measurement. His published books and articles cover such topics as the evolution of consciousness, masculinity/femininity, child personality, various notions of optimal personality and adjustment, patterns of orientation among psychologists, and trends in psychological theory. His interests include Jungian theory, archetypal symbolism, myths and tales, dreams, Eastern thought, and the psychology of religion.
As a psychologist, he came to appreciate both the value and the limitations of scientific theory and research as tools for understanding. He recognized that poets and novelists can often highlight questions and puzzles of human existence that psychology as a discipline avoids dealing with directly. At times poetry and fiction provide deeper and more vivid insights into human nature and consciousness than those presented by psychologists.
He has composed music for piano, various instrumental ensembles, and voice. As a poet he has endeavored to capture pivotal moments in his own experience. As a novelist he has dealt with characters in very different life settings, attempting to show how each sees the world and makes the choices he does. He has completed three novels:
(1) A Princess for Larkin--This is a fantasy centering on the encounters of a young male hero with the feminine realm. At the outset he is a naive youth chasing a dream, but he grows toward manhood as he learns from his adventures.
(2) Horatio--This is the story of Horatio, a close friend of Hamlet. His life becomes interwoven with that of the Danish prince, and the events portrayed in Shakespeare's version of the Hamlet tale serve as background for the story.
(3) Shaul of Tarsos: This is a fictionalized treatment of the life of St. Paul, starting with his boyhood in Tarsus and ending with his death in Rome. It depicts the mental and emotional qualities, events, conflicts, and experiences that might have enabled this man to create a religion that has served to shape Western civilization for almost two thousand years.