Psychology professor loses prolonged fight with cancer
Indiana University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Dr. Lynda Federoff, 59, died of breast cancer Sunday, Nov. 17, at Beacon Ridge Nursing Home.
Federoff was diagnosed with breast cancer 27 years ago and went into remission after treatment.
“She beat that, and we thought we were home free,” Federoff’s daughter, Tara Federoff (senior, political science and anthropology), said.
About three years ago, shortly after her husband passed away, doctors told Lynda Federoff the cancer was back. This time, the cancer metastasized in her bones, Tara Federoff said.
Lynda Federoff had been interested in psychology for a long time, according to her profile on the psychology department website.
“My future in psychology was even expressed in my high school yearbook,” she said, according to the website.
Lynda’s interest in psychology stemmed from the rough childhood she had growing up and her mother having a mental illness.
“That inspired her to help people overcome issues they may encounter,” Tara Federoff said.
Despite her love of helping others, Lynda Federoff went into chemical engineering as an undergraduate because that was where everyone told her the jobs were.
But she always held onto the dream of clinical psychology, Tara Federoff said.
However, after Lynda Federoff beat cancer the first time, she went back to school to get her doctorate in clinical psychology.
“My mom realized life was too short to not do what you love,” Tara Federoff said.
Her areas of research included death and dying issues, trauma, hypnosis and health psychology such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and pain.
Lynda put her skills to work in the community volunteering as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and at the Red Cross for 13 years doing mental health interventions. She also participated at Indiana Area Senior High School, where her daughter went to school.
“She was my Brownie leader,” Tara Federoff said. “She always tried to stay active with things like that.”
She worked with patients at the Indiana Regional Medical Center to help them deal with pain, donated her time at the state police and had her own practice as a clinical psychologist.
In the IUP community, Lynda Federoff held several positions on the IUP senate, ran the psychology department clinic and was involved in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.
Despite the return of the cancer, She taught on and off for the past three years when she wasn’t recovering from surgery.
Since she began working at IUP in August 1999, Lynda Federoff taught eight undergraduate courses and seven graduate level courses, more than any other professor in the history of the psychology department.
Her colleagues said she was committed to her undergraduate and graduate students and to her teaching mission.
Lynda Federoff restarted the department’s chapter of the international student honorary society in psychology, Psi Chi.
She was a student advocate and actively involved students in her research projects.
In addition, she mentored a number of students in designing and completing their honors projects and dissertations.
“Knowing Lynda, I would expect that each [student] left her classes with a better understanding of some aspect of human behavior,” psychology professor Beverly Goodwin said. “What a legacy.”
But she cared about more than just teaching her students, according to her daughter.
“It wasn’t only 90 minutes in class,” Tara Federoff said. “If they were having a rough day, she wanted to be there for them.”
She would even have game nights at her house with the graduate students.
She cared just as much about her family as she did her students and community.
“My mother was always there to bail someone out of trouble,” Tara Federoff said.
“She was never judgmental because she had been through so much in her life,” Tara Federoff said. “She could relate to a lot, and that made her great. She was a cool lady.”
The most important thing that her mother taught her was that she could be what she wanted to be, Tara Federoff said.
“Through what she did, she realized life is to short do anything but what you love to do,” she said. “She taught me that independence was most important, and she would love me no matter what.”
But the person Lynda Federoff affected most in her life was her daughter.
“It was nice to have a mom who was a psychologist because she gave fantastic advice,” Tara Federoff said. “She always knew how to lighten things up when I got too stressed and overwhelmed. She was the light in my life.”
Tara hopes to go on to graduate school or travel abroad to teach English in foreign countries or join the Peace Corps.
She said she gets her desire to care for others from her mom.
“I think [my mom] rarely thought about herself,” Tara Federoff said. “She was always working to make the community better and help other people.”
Although she is her mom’s only child, Tara Federoff has one half sister and two half brothers, one of whom she speaks to on occasion.
Tara has been contacted by quite a few of her mother’s previous students, both undergraduate and graduate.
“They really loved my mom,” Tara Federoff said. “It was nice to reconnect with them.”
Tara Federoff has also gotten a lot of support from the girls in her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, and the Greek community as a whole.
“They’ve been amazing,” Tara said. “It’s really heartwarming.”