William Larry Ventis

October 25, 1943 - April 11, 2020
William Larry Ventis

Gifts & Memorial Donations

William Larry Ventis, of Williamsburg, passed away on April 11th, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. Born October 25, 1943 in Knoxville, TN to Reuben Clyde Ventis and Vernie Mae Ventis, Larry was beloved father to Summer Ventis and friend to many. Larry received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee and was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at William & Mary, where he taught from 1969 until his retirement in 2016. He was a longtime member of the International Society for Humor Studies, which he served as president from 2014-2015.

Larry was an active member of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists, where he sang in the choir for over 25 years. Music was one of the great joys of his life, along with tennis, skiing, travel, and humor. He will be remembered for his many professional accomplishments, his mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students, his service to both the college and community, and most of all for his kind, compassionate spirit and his sense of humor.

A memorial service will be held virtually by the WUU church on Sunday, May 3 at 2 p.m. EST and may be accessed through the WUU event calendar at https://wuu.org/event-calendar/ . Per Larry’s wishes, his ashes will be spread in the Great Smoky Mountains at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to the WUU endowment fund, to the Botetourt Chamber Singers International Tour Fund, or to a charity of your choice.


WUU Endowment Fund link:



Botetourt Chamber Singers International Tour Fund link:


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  • April 27, 2020
    John Nezlek says:
    I knew Larry for 45 years as a friend and colleague at William & Mary. In addition to being a positive force in the the College and the Department of Psychology and for his colleagues, he was a kind and caring person. I cannot recall him acting out of malice. May he rest in peace.

  • April 27, 2020
    Vassilis Saroglou (UCLouvain, Belgium) says:
    Larry has been for me a very welcoming and wonderful host when I spent seven months as a postdoc in William & Mary back in 2000. We first met at ISHS 1997 Oklahoma (my very first time in the US), when he so kindly approached me as we shared two unusual interests in psychology: humor and religion. We became friends across the years and conferences. He was a very subtle and nuanced, empathetic and kind, and still lucid and thoughtful human and academic.

  • April 27, 2020
    delia chiaro says:
    Larry was a lovely person. I shall never forget a warm and sunny July 4th 1999 spent with him and Martin Lampert in the Bay area of San Francisco -- corn chowder, ice cream and later a firework display seen from Berkeley marina. In Bertinoro 2002, how he loved the tiny Fiat 500s and the fact that he "got to sleep in a castle". He was also excited about the fact that Bologna was the oldest university in the world. And who will ever forget Larry's technique for fighting arachnophobia, namely dressing up gigantic hairy spiders in pink tutus! RIP Larry, RIP.

  • April 27, 2020
    Glenn Shean says:
    Larry and I lived together in a old farmhouse back in the early seventies as the odd couple. we made numerous skit trips together to Kitzbuehl Austria as well as nearly every slope in New England. We were colleagues in the psychology department for nearly 50 years. Larry always did his best to contribute and help make the world a better place and was the embodiment of the oath "do no harm." Larry was a kind, thoughtful and had a quietly humorous wit. He was a genuinely good person who was a great role model for many and a conscientious teacher and clinician. It is so sad to have him gone from our lives and community. I know he will rest in peace n his beloved Smokey Mountains. Keep on skiing and playing tennis out there Larry.

  • April 28, 2020
    Don Nilsen says:
    Alleen and I have known Larry Ventis since 1982 when we held our first humor conference at Arizona State University. Larry probably attended as many conferences of the International Society for Humor Studies as anybody, and of course he was President of the organization. Every year I tried to attend his ISHS presentations, because he did the types of empirical psychological studies that were needed to give humor studies the academic prestige it needed. Larry will be missed.