Neill Watson

November 10, 2016
Neill Watson

Gifts & Memorial Donations

Neill P. Watson, III, 69, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at The College of William and Mary and faculty member for 32 years, died on November 10th after a short illness.

Respected as a teacher, colleague and administrator, Neill focused on clinical psychology in dozens of scholarly papers and convention presentations that he wrote and co-authored.  His research explored Rogerian theories of psychotherapy and ways to measure discrepancies in people’s self-concepts.  He taught courses including Advanced Abnormal Psychology and Phenomenological Approaches to Psychotherapy.

For the last twenty years of his tenure he was the William and Mary representative on the Council of Directors for the Virginia Consortium of Clinical Psychology. In that role he was instrumental in providing oversight and direction for the consortium’s graduate program leading to the PsyD degree.

Neill was born on February 27, 1947 in Newport News, Virginia where his father worked in the shipyard following World War II.  Growing up in Raleigh, NC, he became an Eagle Scout, enjoyed acting in high school musicals and excelled academically.  He earned his undergraduate degree at Yale University summa cum laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  He earned his PhD in clinical Psychology at Harvard University.

“A philosopher at heart,” as one of his children described him, Neill taught his students –and his children – to view the world with a critical eye, to ask probing questions about what they observed, to persist in seeking answers and to stay dedicated to reasoned thought.  He was known to be conscientious in everything he did.

Out of the classroom, Neill loved music and played guitar and sang in the Jazz / R&B band “Silver.”  An accomplished arranger, he arranged all the music the group performed, frequently devising complicated chord and key changes.  He was an avid swimmer and could often be found at the gym churning up the pool.  His wry sense of humor and quick wit, delivered with a twinkle in his eye, were wont to leave family and friends chortling in amazement.  Quiet, deeply held spiritual beliefs led him to The Mattaponi Friends Meeting (Quakers) where he was treasurer for many years.

Neill was predeceased by his father, Neill Pat Watson, Jr. and mother, Violet Kerr Watson. A devoted and loving father, he leaves behind four children, Anna Ruth Cory-Watson of New York City; Damon Thayer Cory-Watson of Durham, North Carolina; Adam Zachary Watson, of New York City and Gavin Kerr Watson of Williamsburg, Virginia; and two grandchildren; Violet Jeanne Cory Costello and Desmond David Watson Costello.

The family would like to thank Alice Twining who, with unerring patience and attention, helped them care for Neill during his final illness.

A Quaker memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 3051 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg on Saturday, November 19th at 4:00 pm. The family welcomes flowers if friends are led to send them.  Neill’s memory may also be honored with a donation to The American Friends Service Committee. Online condolences may be shared at


Saturday, November 19, 2016
4:00 PM

Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists - Directions
3051 Ironbound Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185
(757) 220-6830

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  • November 15, 2016
    Brandon Bryan says:
    When I decided to apply for graduate school, I had actually been out of undergraduate studies a few years. So my approach was a little different. After researching schools, I selected four that met various criteria. I set off to tour each institution of higher learning to get a feel for whether we would be a good fit. At each place, I literally showed up in the psychology department and asked if there was anyone I could speak to about their graduate program. I received confused stares, polite tolerance, and even haughty condescension. But not at William & Mary. There, Neill agreed to meet with me. Unscheduled. Out of the blue. He did not know if I was a serious and competitive candidate for his program or an overly optimistic and naïve dreamer. Turns out I was both. We sat down and talked for at least 30 minutes, probably longer. He never appeared rushed, although the mighty stack of papers in his office suggested he surely had other demands on his precious time. (I learned later those were semi-permanent fixtures.) He answered all of my questions thoughtfully with an extra effort to help me sort out my own needs for school. He made no effort to sell the program he represented as being anything more than it truly was (which he had humbly made) and what he aspired it to become. He openly placed my needs and the needs of the program bare, to see if together we would each become better. Although that first impromptu meeting came to an end, that openness and support never did. I worked with Neill throughout my graduate years and beyond, always feeling a sense of mentorship and collegiality at the same time. I usually felt in awe of his grasp of difficult theoretical concepts and their application to real experience, yet I also felt he was completely open to my own burgeoning ideas. He was never dismissive or uninterested in whatever I might have to say on a subject. Indeed, I am sure he reflected on things I had said far more than I should have been reflective of things he had said. Neill will greatly be missed. His quiet, humble intensity. His obsessiveness born out of a keen and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His ability to be truly present with me. And now, that is where he shall remain for me and all who knew him.

  • November 16, 2016
    Tom Meier says:
    Surely another treasure from here added to the kingdom. What a pleasure it was to know and work with Neill.

  • November 16, 2016
    Jeff Cahoon says:
    I'm the I.T. engineer at William and Mary that was responsible for helping Neill and Psychology. I'm so sorry to hear of Neill's passing. He was one of the kindest people that I have had the pleasure of supporting at William and Mary. I always enjoyed heading over to help Neill, as he and I would have great conversations about music. It was awesome to talk with a fellow jazz lover. I'll be listening to Diana Krall tonight in his honor.

  • November 16, 2016
    Eileen O'Neill-Boyle says:
    I worked with Neill in the Virginia Consortium Program from its beginning until he retired. Intelligent. Dedicated. Determined. A good man who should have enjoyed many more years. Rest in peace.

  • November 16, 2016
    Debbie Carmical says:
    Reading Neill's obituary makes me sad and happy at the very same time. As a cousin to my wonderful husband Mike, Neill held a special place in our hearts. We played tennis together in Raleigh and enjoyed laughing and talking about every subject under the sun! My sympathy and support goes out to each member of Neill's family. He loved you deeply and was oh so proud of you. These memories make me smile. Knowing how each of you must learn to live without him makes me sad. Neill leaves a big hole to fill. Much love. Debbie Carmical