Dr. Frances Mervyn, a community mental health expert and beloved teacher and dean at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, (MSPP) has received the 2011 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award. Nominated this fall by a former student, Mervyn received the prestigious honor at ceremonies at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 7.
As one of 15 distinguished teachers chosen in 2011, Mervyn received a $25,000 one-time cash award from the Gail McKnight Beckman Trust. "The awards were created to benefit current or former academic faculty members who have inspired their students to create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large," said Joyce Yamaato, Vice President of Wells Fargo and Senior Trust and Fiduciary Specialist. "The academic faculty member must have inspired a student to establish, on a lasting basis, a concept, procedure, or movement of comparable benefit to the community at large."
Says Mervyn, "I am one person and as such am a conduit for the ideas of many who have gone before. It is wonderful to be recognized as someone who inspires, but it is equally important for me to recognize those who helped shape my beliefs and style as a teacher and mentor," says Mervyn.
The trust was founded in 2008 under the will of Gail McKnight Beckman in honor of her mother Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman. Dr. Beckman was an educator, a renowned author and a pioneer in the field of psychology. She was one of the first female psychology professors at Columbia University and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mervyn, who earned her PhD at Boston College and has taught at MSPP since 1978, was nominated for the award by Dr. Diana Collins, a doctoral student she mentored and advised in the 1970s. With Mervyn's complete support and inspiration, Collins who worked at New Hampshire Hospital in conjunction with the N.H. Crime Commission co-authored a grant that led to a pilot study to benefit victims of serious crime. The pilot study was called the Victim/Witness Service of Hillsborough County, NH. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The program was a bridge between psychology and law.
"I thought of Fran immediately when I saw the call for nominations in the APA Monitor," says Collins, who has been a private practitioner since 1984.
In the pilot program, Collins interviewed children and other victims and witnesses of crimes, paying particular attention to cases where "the potential for trauma was the greatest," she says, "By helping victims deal with the trauma, we were able to lessen their fears of court appearance and to win many cases because of it," she adds. "Fran was there supporting and mentoring me every step of the way."
Says Mervyn, "I honor Diana for creating this program and thank her for nominating me for this award. It is a testament to the qualities she demonstrated in this novel program she initiated, and made happen with tenacity and caring. And, personally it enhances my sense of pride regarding how we, as teachers at the Massachusetts School of Psychology, can disseminate psychological concepts to students who listen carefully and take in what we teach, and apply it in the community."
"Deep down, we as teachers hope this will happen," she says.
Mervyn and the other award recipients were selected by an Advisory Committee consisting of Dr. Carol Goodheart of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Karen Tidmarsh of Bryn Mawr College, Dr. Geraldine Downey of Columbia University and Joyce Yamaato of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
In addition to the general criteria, the recipients had to be current or former professors or instructors at a college, university, junior college, community college or technical school in America. And, preference was given to those teaching in the fields of psychology, medicine or law.