UC Berkeley News


Elizabeth ‘Lisby’ Mayer

19 January 2005

Associate Clinical Professor Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, a clinician-scholar whose work ranged from groundbreaking theories on female development to her “coincidence theory” that explained seemingly unrelated events, died on New Year’s Day. She was 57.

Mayer, known as “Lisby,” was a clinical supervisor at the UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic since 1983. She died in her sleep at her parents’ home in Hanover, N.H., of complications from intestinal scleroderma, a rare disease she had for more than 15 years.

“Lisby was much beloved as a supervisor — lauded for her deep knowledge of psychoanalytic theory and clinical interventions, her intellectual openness, her calm and positive attitude, her energy, and her commitment to the development of our students,” wrote psychology professor Rhona S. Weinstein in an e-mail to colleagues and students. “She will be deeply missed by all of us who were blessed with the opportunity to engage in the learning process with her.”

Mayer pursued an array of interests both professionally and personally. She was also on the faculty of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute and was an associate clinical professor in the Psychiatry Department at UCSF. She authored more than 50 major articles, maintained an active private clinical practice in Berkeley, and lectured regularly.

“She caused other people to blossom,” said Phyllis Cath, a close friend who is an associate clinical professor at UCSF. “So many people attributed to Lisby a critical moment in which she determined a career choice or a life path. She helped people define themselves.”

As a psychoanalyst, Mayer had a core interest in human connections and relationships. She was known for her influential revision of Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, arguing that little girls value their bodies just as little boys do.

In recent years, she received wide acclaim after her “coincidence theory” was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the “most exciting” new ideas in 2003. Mayer’s interest in coincidence was sparked by personal experience: She had a family possession stolen and, on a dare, consulted a psychic 800 miles away who successfully told her where to find the object.

Mayer was also a musician and the creative director of California Revels, an Oakland theater group that puts on a series of shows every year just before Christmas to celebrate the winter solstice with songs, skits, and dances from traditions around the world. She produced a video series on music education with children that won the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, the Coalition for Quality Children’s Video “Best of the Best” Award, and the National Association of Parenting Publications Award.

Mayer recently received the Distinguished Analyst Award from the American Psychoanalytic Association. She was a fellow of the International Consciousness Research Laboratories at Princeton University, and a member of the research faculty of the Institute for Health and Healing at California Pacific Medical Center.

Mayer is survived by her daughters, Meg Renik of San Francisco and Byrdie Renik of New York City; her parents, David and Pamela Mayer of Hanover, N.H.; her sisters, Rebecca Mayer of Rehoboth, Mass., and Anneke Mayer of Dragoon, Ariz.; and her brother, Michael Mayer of Washington, D.C.

Services are pending, and the family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to either the San Francisco Foundation for Psychoanalysis at 2420 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94115, or California Revels at 337 17th St., Suite 207, Oakland, CA 94612.

— Noel Gallagher