Richard Yep, ACA CEO

I have many T-shirts, some purchased at stores, others collected at counseling events I have attended over the years. One of my favorites says, “I’m More Than a Counselor, I’m a Change Agent.” I like it because it goes beyond simply announcing one’s profession — it gets to the heart of the actions that are such an integral part of what many of you do each and every day.

On March 20, ACA and the profession lost one of its brightest change agents when we learned of the passing of the association’s 49th president, Judy Lewis. Over many decades as a counselor, counselor educator and author, Judy let everyone know that she was someone who “walked her talk.” For Judy, it wasn’t about “being right” so much as it was about “doing right.” She didn’t squander the time she had here on Earth. No, when you consider a career that looked closely at issues of social justice and how professional counselors can be instruments in helping to eliminate prejudice, discrimination and the challenges faced by the less fortunate, I would say her time was well spent.

Judy could be very determined (some might even say feisty) when she believed strongly in something. Her efforts encompassed issues that played out on the local, state and even national stage of public policy and politics. She was diminutive in stature, but that didn’t diminish the strength of her voice when was speaking up for something for which she felt great passion.

As an organizer and trainer, Judy was not satisfied with the practice of advocacy in a counseling context. She wanted others to understand how the concept of social justice could be a tool to help others. She went on to serve as one of the editors of a book about advocacy competencies in professional counseling, ACA Advocacy Competencies: A Social Justice Framework for Counselors. Judy and her colleagues wrote eloquently about exemplary practice in understanding and applying the principles of advocacy. In yet another example of her commitment to the issues in which she believed, Judy donated all of her royalties from the book, which to date have totaled several thousand dollars, to one of ACA’s divisions, Counselors for Social Justice, an organization that she helped to found.

Although our social justice advocacy corps lost one of its most vociferous soldiers with Judy’s passing, her influence on countless colleagues and students over the years ensures that what she believed in so strongly will continue. I am not sure she would want to call this a “legacy” because that was not what she was about. Rather, I always felt she just wanted to make sure that counselors were the best at what they were trained to do and that they knew what made counseling such a special profession.

Judy’s son, Keith, said that as news of his mother’s death began to circulate, he was amazed to learn about the many circles of people in which she had been involved. She was a community organizer at heart, someone who was able to bring together disparate groups of people and unite them around a specific cause or effort to alleviate the pain, suffering and misery faced by our fellow human beings.

As if being a true social advocate was not enough, there were also Judy’s social and family-focused facets. As a devoted mother and grandmother, she adored her family and found great joy in being with them whenever she could, even in the last few months of her life.

And in terms of being a friend to many, Judy traveled with a number of colleagues over the years to places both domestic and international. She was a people person. She was also good at convincing others to do things. One year, a group of us were asked to participate in a skit for some ACA leaders. Judy was masterful as our “creative director.” She even got me to play the role of a less-than-enthusiastic cheerleader whose only line was a very deadpan “Rah rah.”

Judy was more than a counselor; she really was a change agent. Turn to page 48 for our “In Memoriam” article about Judy.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or via email at ryep@counseling.org. You can also follow me on Twitter @RichYep.