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Lisa Capps, gifted young UC Berkeley psychologist, dies of lung cancer at 35
09 Feb 2000

By Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- Lisa Margarit Capps, a gifted young psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, died Monday (Feb. 7) at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley after a valiant, year-long fight against lung cancer.

She was 35.

Appointed assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley in 1996, Capps made a remarkable impact as an educator and scholar during her brief three years in the Department of Psychology.

Her research on autistic disorder, for example, helped to dispel key myths in the field. Capps found that individuals with autism were able to form secure attachments with caretakers, contrary to widespread beliefs that they lacked such bonds. She also discovered levels of social awareness not previously recognized among people with this condition.

Capps' innovative work on the emotional disorders of children, anxiety disorders and bereavement combined traditional clinical research with linguistic and narrative approaches.

"It set a new mark in the field," said friend and colleague Stephen Hinshaw, UC Berkeley professor of psychology. "She paved the way for future generations of studies on narrative psychology and developmental psychopathology."

Hinshaw said that Capps' presence in the department was an inspiration.

"Her gracious presence, incisive mind and genuine affection for others influenced everyone," he said. "She was beloved among both the students and the faculty."

Born October 22, 1964, in Santa Barbara, Calif., Capps was the daughter of U.S. Representative Lois Grimsrud Capps (Santa Barbara), and the late Walter Capps, a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a former U.S. Representative from Santa Barbara.

She earned her bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1986, where she was elected into the honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa. Her doctorate in clinical psychology from UCLA was awarded in 1996, after an internship at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. Capps also spent a year abroad at Oxford University in 1985.

Exemplifying Capps' emphasis on health and healing, her first published research evaluated the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a symbol and agent of healing.

Her three books are: "Constructing Panic: The Discourse of Agoraphobia" (1995), with E. Ochs; "Children with Autism: A Developmental Perspective" (1997), with M. Sigman; and "Living Narrative" (in press) with E. Ochs. 

Besides her mother, Capps is survived by her husband, Nathan Brostrom, of Berkeley; two sons, David August Brostrom, 5, and Walter Holden Brostrom, 1; a sister, Laura Karolina Capps, of Berkeley; a brother, Todd Holden Capps, of Santa Barbara, his wife, Julie Capps, and their son, Aden Henry Capps.

A memorial service for friends and family will be held on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 1 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley. A second memorial service will be held at UC Berkeley, with time and place to be announced. 

Checks may be sent in her name to the "UC Berkeley Foundation," specifying the "Lisa M. Capps Memorial Fund" on the memo line, at 2440 Bancroft Way, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-4200.


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