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SIR DENYS TUDOR EMIL ROBERTS 1923-2013 Biography by daughter Amanda Roberts

Sir Denys Tudor Emil Roberts KBE SPMB QC (Traditional Chinese: 羅弼時爵士, 19 January 1923–19 May 2013) was a British colonial official and judge. Joining the colonial civil service as a Crown Counsel in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1953, he became Attorney General of Gibraltar in 1960. In 1962, he

was posted to Hong Kong as Solicitor-General, and was successively promoted to Attorney-General in 1966, Colonial Secretary/Chief Secretary in 1973 and Chief Justice in 1979. He was the first and only Attorney-General to become both Colonial Secretary (and Chief Secretary) in Hong Kong. Never having been a judge before, he was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1979 and was the first and only Colonial Secretary (and Chief Secretary) of Hong Kong to receive such an appointment. He was the author of several successful comic legal novels, one of which was made into a movie in the 1950s, and several volumes of autobiography, in the form of whimsical recollections of his various career debacles and missteps - more a testament to his self-deprecating humor and abiding sense of the absurd than to strict fact.

Hong Kong owes a large degree of its tremendous success as a major global financial hub to his modernization of the legal code in the 1960s and 1970s while he was Solicitor-General and then Attorney-General; this served as a major inducement for international investors to establish themselves in the colony.  He also wrote the enabling legislation for Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, ICAC, which is still seen as a model for dealing with institutional corruption.  During the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s, he played a significant role as Attorney General in the prosecution of violent agitators, and thereby in helping maintain law, order and prosperity in Hong Kong. He was closely involved with the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese under the Thatcher Administration and assisted Hong Kong in navigating through the Cultural Revolution led by the late Mao Tze Tung in the 1960s.

His resilience was in part forged out of his experience in World War II as part of the Allied invasion forces that landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day on June 6, 1944 as part of Operation Overlord. He learned persistence and grit and the courage to keep going in the face of mortal peril. His war-time experiences stayed with him and produced a man of great determination and a fundamental sense of right and wrong. Compassionate as he was, he also knew a rogue when he met one, and he dealt with them without regret as a judge in his own court. I believe that this clarity came from the combination of solid British middle-class values and perhaps the wartime experience of his generation. He was forced to confront evil of a kind that his children have been spared from seeing first hand too much of. He dedicated his life to retributive justice, that is, how should one deal and mete out punishment to those that have violated others and the rule of law.

He was about retributive justice but would nevertheless take time to get to know some of the prisoners in person once a sentence was passed. He would ask, “What are you in here for and how long have you been behind bars?” He seemed to take a personal interest in their plight, an extraordinary sentiment from any judge, much less a Chief Justice who typically remains remote from those behind bars. It seems fitting that as one who was compassionate enough to tour the prisons and speak to those incarcerated, that PRISE should find itself being used in prisons around the world as a method of addressing the trauma that underlies so much of the crime that landed these individuals behind bars.

My father was remarkable. For all of his illustrious career achievements he was a humble, self-effacing, kind man who taught his children the value of service to others less fortunate. As a child I was taken on tours of a leper colony, a Vietnamese refugee camp and joined him to raise money for charities through a variety of public engagements. Although he did not know it at the time, he was molding me into a staunch humanitarian and I learned that the function of being blessed to is give back to the world. “What can you give away out of your toys and clothing to the children who have none? Smile at the stranger on the street you have no idea what burdens he/she is carrying.” Such words instilled a sense of restorative justice and an awareness of how random both life’s gifts and misfortunes can be.

We live in a world of injustice, racism, intractable violence and hatred. Wars and conflict are the legacy of these evils and at the root of all of them lays trauma. Greed for resources and a lust for glory often coexist alongside untreated trauma as the drivers of war atrocities. As the daughter of a former Chief Justice, I have dedicated my life to a particular kind of justice. Distributive justice, which concerns itself with the equitable and fair distribution of resources, healthcare, clean water and all that is good in our human global village. My humanitarian efforts revolve around this very goal of access to mental health care, resiliency, and wellness education. 

PRISE attempts to answer a call for justice. We view access to quality, effective and cost-effective trauma treatment as a basic human right. Our dream is to bring evidence-based trauma treatment to many who would otherwise never have hope for relief from their suffering.

My father died before PRISE was conceived, but if he were alive now, I do believe he would be well pleased. If only he had lived long enough to witness PRISE and its fruits. Sadly, often one’s parents do not live long enough to see their children reach their full potential.

Those that were close to him knew him as an immensely funny man with a wit that could stall any room of people. He was a consummate speaker and was known for his signature after-dinner speeches. For all his success he was remarkably humble and never took himself too seriously. He never forgot about the values in life that mattered most. Not status and success but compassion, caring, generosity of spirit, humor and of course, justice. He is sorely missed by the many that were blessed to know him well.

You will never see the likes of one like him again.

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I’m a Life Member of the American Psychological Association. First an NIMH Pre-Doctoral Fellow at Michigan State University, I continued with more than 55 years of post-doctoral practice and teaching experience. Once a former speech collaborator and project consultant for organizations including the Peace Corps and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I was founding editor of the Cambridge University Press Journal of Tropical Psychology, founder of the Division of Applied Gerontology in the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). Receiving the Distinguished International Psychologist Award, American Psychological Association (Division 52 International Psychology) in 2002, I have overseen 126 psychology doctoral dissertations in California, Singapore, and Australia. More recently I taught a trauma psychology seminar at the University of New Mexico. So far and for some reason, I’ve published more than a hundred articles and 15 books on topics including life span psychology, trauma psychology in context, applied gerontology, international psychology, and unfortunate baby names.
Only semi-retired I avoid the lethargic status that can be regarded as “retired” by continuing to think and write. I hope to avoid that opposite error exemplified by misleading voices of our era and, of course, Lincoln’s prescient warning from a long past time: “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”  Well, my students and other readers will always be the best judges.

Once I was asked why I did what I do by two different people, an adult graduate student, and then by a gifted little girl next door. The answers were different but not incompatible.

To the adult:
Our primary client is neither faculty nor student but rather those members of our human family that receive the services of our graduates. Let’s do the math: If a licensed practitioner sees only two new clients a week, in one year,100 different clients would be assisted. In a 25 year career, that would be 2500 people. Each client, on the average, will have a major impact on at least 4 people in their life (children, spouse, parents, close friends) meaning that we now have 10,000 people impacted by the career of one of our graduates. If a specific degree program has 25 graduates a year, it would take only 4 years of such a program to impact a million lives.
The impact of course can be either helpful or unhelpful. In either case it has ripples across generations. Herein lies our greatest responsibility to graduate competent and caring human beings, able to meld their commitment to social justice and client care with a thorough and effective education.
A successful teacher or administrator, over a 30 year career, can impact the training and professional lives of 500 of these program graduates (each one directly impacting 10,000 lives) and therefore, indirectly, we might improve the course of life for as many as five million people.
This is in addition to those graduates who themselves become teachers, modeling their work on their instructors. Such an impact can genuinely change the course of human events for the better. It is well worth doing.

To the child:
I said “We help wonderful people to change their nightmares into their best dreams. Then we do our best to help them make the dreams they chose come true.”

She said: “That’s what I thought you did.” And she smiled.

Violet Stars

Dr. Morgan is my longtime professor from graduate school, mentor and friend. He was one of the first people who taught me to believe in myself and my abilities.

Amanda Roberts, PhD

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Biography by Amanda Roberts, PhD

Al Ackerman was a kind and generous man, gentle, loving, humorous and a renowned psychoanalyst and published scholar. He was also one of my lifetime and dearest of friends, encouragers and mentors. His words and advice still reverberate many years later. One always felt that nothing else mattered to him while he was talking to you, a rare quality to encounter in a highly distracted and frenzied modern world.

He studied psychiatry under Harry Stack Sullivan and Freida Fromm-Reichmann, illustrious leaders and contempories of Sigmund Freud, in the mid-20th century. He was a psychiatrist of a caliber one seldom finds, with an unusual ability to “see” the person he was interacting with.

I first met him as a young enthusiastic, and slightly lost, 20 year-old college student in the 1970s and from the beginning we developed a rare and loving bond. We shared a kindred connection that has carried me through the years.


Al worked as a Navy Psychiatrist in the Asia-Pacific war between 1941-1945 on an aircraft carrier as the resident psychiatrist.

I was intrigued to hear his accounts of his work with traumatized pilots and active-duty personnel and how he dealt with the belligerence of certain servicemen. One account was about a disruptive onboard troublemaker. He dealt with him by putting him

in charge of an important task, thus capitalizing on the man’s leadership potential. The troublemaker evolved into a respected leader and reliable crewman who discharged his duties in an exemplary fashion for the remainder of the deployment. He knew people, and even how to work with a rogue. He brought out the best in a person.


Al devoted much of his time treating UC Berkeley college students and shepherding in the next generation of citizens and leaders and he was a prominent member of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute for an extended tenure.

Al encouraged me to become a clinician, indeed I might not have pursued this career if it were not for his guidance. He taught me many things, the most important of which was to deeply listen and respect whoever one is with, proceeding with a non-judgmental, non-threatening, compassionate stance.

I owe much to Al. He was a rare and deeply wise man and he is sorely missed.

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