Gene McDowell


Dr. Eugene Early “Gene” McDowell III, born March 16, 1939, in Greensboro, N.C., died peacefully at his residence in Webster, N.C., on April 24, 2020.

Gene was the son of the late Eugene E. “Mac” and Mildred Bain McDowell of Greensboro, N.C. He was preceded in death by his sister, Nancy McDowell Newton of Columbus, Ga.; and daughter, Anna McDowell Nash of Raleigh.

Dr. McDowell held B.S. (cum laude) and Ph.D. degrees in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.S. degree in experimental psychology from DePauw University in Green Castle, Ind.

He was employed as assistant professor of psychology at UNC Greensboro, 1965-69; as professor and head of the Psychology Department at Western Carolina University, 1969-82; as director of the Asheville Graduate Center at UNC Asheville, 1982-97; and again as professor of psychology at WCU, 1997-2007.

While a gifted teacher, Dr. McDowell’s research and writing interests focused on Death and Dying, Suicidology, and Grief and Bereavement. Many of these activities were conducted in partnership with his academic colleague and dear friend, Dr. Judith Stillion.

Dr. McDowell is survived by his wife of 36 years, Suzanne Hill McDowell. He is also survived by five adult children, including Julia McDowell Townsend and husband Tony of Sylva, Susan “Betsy” McDowell Cooper and husband Tommy of Candler, Eugene E. “Mac” McDowell IV and wife Sherry of Eden, Kimberly Baker Stewart and husband Ian of Leicester, and Meghan Baker of Asheville. Also surviving are seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Gene’s family and dear friends always knew him to be kind, generous and selfless, always encouraging others to be their best selves. In this spirit of helping others, he served in many volunteer roles in his community.

A lifelong UNC Tar Heel fan and alumnus, he was also a dedicated supporter of Western Carolina University Catamounts. He was an avid runner, competing in and finishing several marathons. In his later running years, he particularly enjoyed his membership in the Cullowhee Running and Social Club and the camaraderie of his fellow runners at the Huntsmen Senior Games in St. George, Utah.

In lieu of flowers, it is asked that all who wish to honor Gene do so by modeling his greatest qualities of offering kindness, compassion and encouragement to others.

A celebration of his life is planned for a later date. Online condolences can be made at

Appalachian Funeral Services of Sylva, N.C., is serving the family.