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Dr. Thomas J. Kenny, UM pediatric psychologist

Dr. Thomas J. Kenny was a University of Maryland School of Medicine pediatric psychologist.
Dr. Thomas J. Kenny was a University of Maryland School of Medicine pediatric psychologist.(Baltimore Sun)

Dr. Thomas J. Kenny, a retired University of Maryland School of Medicine pediatric psychologist who was an expert in children's behavioral problems, died of pneumonia Oct. 19 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Ruxton resident was 82.

"Tom trained many young psychologists, and he made them think more broadly in the relationship between children, their family, development and health. That's what he brought to the field," said Dr. Maureen M. Black, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a colleague and friend for more than 15 years.

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"It was about the marriage between pediatrics and psychologists, and there are now thousands and thousands of pediatric psychologists in the field," said Dr. Black. "This was an important part of who Tom was and his mentoring. He'd push you and would say, 'You need to think about this,' and 'Get involved in the national association.'"

The son of Thomas J. Kenny and B. Dorothy Stewart Kenny, funeral directors, Thomas Joseph Kenny was born in Baltimore and raised on Hollins Street.

After graduating in 1950 from City College, he enrolled at Washington & Lee University, where he was a member of the varsity lacrosse team.

He played in the 1954 North-South All Star lacrosse team as a member of South team in a game that was played at Freeport, Long Island; the North won, 13-11.

"We played lacrosse together and were lifeguards together at Cape May," said John B. Howard, a Washington & Lee classmate and lifelong friend who lives in Ruxton. "Tom was a very loyal person when it came to his family and friends. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed and lived life to the fullest."

Dr. Kenny served two years in the Army and then began his studies at the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where he earned a master's degree in psychology in 1959.

After earning his doctorate in psychology in 1969 from Catholic University of America in Washington and completing an internship at Springfield State Hospital Center in Sykesville, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's department of pediatrics.

Dr. Kenny was a co-founder with Dr. Rudy Bower of the intern program in the department of pediatrics. He also was the author or co-author of numerous articles on topics such as "Pharmacologic Treatment of Behavioral Problems," "Child Advocacy," "Developmental Screening" and "Measurement in Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics."

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"He trained many pediatric psychologists who are now all over the country and leaders in the field who have done well," said Dr. Black. "We should be very proud of Tom, and he was very proud of those he had trained."

In 1989, Dr. Kenny accepted a three-month sabbatical at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where he studied how British doctors handled children's behavioral problems and observed that hypnosis could provide significant help in young patients.

Returning to Baltimore, he employed this technique with patients at what is now Mercy Medical Center.

Dr. Kenny was a staunch advocate of the frequently overlooked role of the parent as teacher, reported The Evening Sun in a 1977 article, and he "believed it helps if parents first bone up on childhood development."

He also believed that parents "must be firm, consistent, united in their goals and willing to back up their insistence on good behavior with physical reinforcement," observed the newspaper, which added, "This does not mean spanking."

Dr. Kenny urged parents to pick up their children and carry them to bed, and, if they refused to turn off the TV, walk over and turn it off. "And don't give up easily," said The Evening Sun.

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Dr. Kenny retired in 1995.

He was a charter member of the Society of Pediatric Psychology and served as its president from 1975 to 1976. He was a charter fellow in 2000, when the organization became a division of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Kenny remained active in Washington & Lee's Alumni Association, where he held numerous positions, including as co-chair of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1950.

He retained a lifelong interest in swimming. He was an inveterate squash and tennis player, and a waterfowl hunter.

He was a member of the Maryland Club and L'Hirondelle Club.

Dr. Kenny was a longtime usher at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues in Towson, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday.

Dr. Kenny is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Katherine Klinkenberg; two daughters, Alison Kenny Brennan of Ruxton and Lisa Kenny Allen of Greenwich, Conn.; a brother, John B. Kenny of Baltimore; a niece; and six grandchildren.

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