Beverly Prosser Gelwick

Honored by:Greg, Jennifer, Mirelle, & Conrad Luecke
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Professor Doctor Beverly Prosser Gelwick is a pioneer in women’s leadership in society, especially in the field of counseling psychology in colleges and universities.  Her doctoral research in 1975, on adult women students’ perceptions and expectations of the university environment, led to an understanding of the place and needs of women in the work-place even while many remained wives and homemakers.  

From her research and leadership positions in counseling psychology centers, Dr. Gelwick went on to research and illuminate the challenges and problems women face in higher education and in working generally.  She was also among the first to recognize and propose treatment of eating disorders such as bulimia.  

Besides these clinical psychological problems, Dr. Gelwick was an early leader in raising public consciousness about the problems women face in higher education and in their jobs.  In Up the Ladder: Women, Professionals, and Clients in College Student Personnel, edited by Dr. Gelwick, she brought together the views of 14 women leaders working to change the artificial stereotypes imposed by a male dominated culture on women while in college. This book was a part of the growing women’s movement in higher education at a time when role models, mentorships and resources for women were still unavailable. Dr. Gelwick and her colleagues also pointed out that men as well as women were socialized into unhealthy standards of female and male sex-role development and needed help to change their attitudes.

In researching the personality development of women and men in their relationships and roles in society, Dr. Gelwick did not take a narrow approach but also looked at the intellectual and moral development of women and of men. One of the obstacles for women was the now notorious view that women were intellectually inferior to men in areas such as mathematics.  To correct this view, with federal grants from The Fund for the Improvement of Post-secondary Education, Dr. Gelwick worked with college and university mathematicians to train faculty advisors to guide female students in their choices.  She introduced research showing that “math anxiety” and fewer women role models in mathematics lead to a math avoidance behavior in high school and college age women.  With more female role models in science and in mathematics, this stereotype has changed and new career pathways are open to women. 

Dr. Gelwick’s concern for women’s full participation in higher education and increasing opportunities and advancement for women brought her to important academic teaching and administrative positions.  She taught as a Visiting Lecturer in the Graduate Guidance and Counseling Department at the University of Reading in England from 1972-1973, and in 1982 Dr. Gelwick was awarded sabbatical leave as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College of Columbia University, where she taught a course entitled “Eating Disorders: Etiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” 

In 1975, Dr. Gelwick began a counseling program at Stephens College, one of the first women’s colleges in the nation, which served non-traditional adult women students through a new program called “the university without walls.” This program provided both special on-campus intensive learning sessions as well as courses in cities across the nation. 

In 1978, Dr. Gelwick was promoted to Chief Psychologist and Director of Counseling Services with tenured faculty status for the entire college. During her time at Stephens, she also served in national leadership positions such as the American College Personnel Association’s Women’s Task Force Steering Committee, its Executive Council, and its journal’s editorial board.

In 1983, Dr. Gelwick accepted the position of Director and Chief Psychologist of the Counseling and Testing Center at the University of New Hampshire. As a member of the Women’s Standing Committee of the American Psychological Association and vice-president and then president (1979-85) of the College and University Accreditation Board of the International Association of Counseling Centers (IACC), she aimed, with the encouragement of the University Dean of Student Affairs, to continue her leadership in women’s issues and the moral and intellectual development of women and men. 

The University of New Hampshire Counseling Center is a state and co-ed institution with a long history of commitment to women’s education.  At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Gelwick secured at the University of New Hampshire three different grants from Sigma Xi, the international honor society for scientific research, to bring female leaders in the sciences to the University campus.  She also set out to increase the services of the UNH Counseling Center to the needs of the large student body by moving from a model of long term therapy that limited staff time to one of shorter term therapy. Long term therapy had been recognized nationally as inappropriate for college and university counseling centers that need to serve thousands of students and have proportionally small staffs. While at the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Gelwick was elected president of the International Association of Counseling Services.

In 1988, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine invited Dr. Gelwick to be the Director and Chief Psychologist of their Counseling Service.  Bowdoin College, founded in Maine in 1794, is a nationally renowned liberal arts and sciences college.  The invitation was appealing to Dr. Gelwick because of the college’s inclusion of women and its proximity to her family vacation home on in adjacent Cundy’s Harbor.  She and her husband hoped to eventually retire there. Therefore she moved to Maine with the goal of bringing the Bowdoin Counseling Service up to the International Association of Counseling Centers’ standards and contributing to Bowdoin’s advancement of women’s and men’s mental health in a new era of women’s rights and relationships to men. By 1990, the accreditation goal was officially attained with the IACC certification of the Bowdoin Counseling Service. At Bowdoin new issues emerged with women’s new sense of equality. One was dealing with date-rape and sexual assault.  Related also was counseling men about sexuality and power relationships.  Another was reverse discrimination in the attempt for racial inclusiveness.  All of these were sensitive, divisive, and stressful issues for persons in student services and Dr. Gelwick worked to educate students, faculty, and administration in facing issues raised by a more inclusive and diverse student population in higher education.

Throughout her professional career as a counseling service director, Dr. Gelwick always had student clients in addition to some private clients because  she wanted to remain practicing psychologist and as well as an administrative director. In this way, Dr. Gelwick was directly aware of the dynamics of psychology on campus and in the community.  Her psychological practice skills also involved her in monitoring the standards of her profession by serving on boards of directors of the New Hampshire Psychological Association, the Ethics Committee of the Maine Psychological Association, and the Professional Standards and Review Committee of the Maine Psychological Association.

Dr. Gelwick was born in Lewiston, Maine and grew up in Lisbon Falls, Maine where both of her parents were school teachers.  After graduation from Lisbon High School, she entered a dual program of studies at Temple University and the American Baptist Institute for Christian Workers.  She graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science in English and Psychology and a Certification in Christian Education Leadership. She married Richard Gelwick, who became a United Church of Christ minister and college and university professor.  When her daughter, Jennifer Gelwick-Luecke, now of Ames, Iowa, and son, Allen M. Gelwick, now of Houston, Texas, began middle school, she began graduate studies at the University of Missouri where she completed her Masters degree in 1971 and her Doctorate in 1975. 

When Dr. Gelwick retired in 1997, she represented the new wave of women who had returned to higher education, earned advance degrees, and served as leaders in their fields.  During her career she was recognized for her distinguished leadership in higher education by being chosen as a Fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education, an Associate of the Danforth Foundation promoting humane and value sensitive higher education, the first woman Fellow of the Maine Psychological Association, Outstanding Contributor Award of the Standing Committee for Women of the American College Personnel Association, the Senior Recognition Award in Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and Distinguished Leadership and Distinguished Service Awards of the International Association of Counseling Services.  Dr. Gelwick remains a Diplomat in Counseling Psychology certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology, which is the primary organization certifying competence in a specialty area. 

She and her husband are now both retired and live in Cundy’s Harbor in the town of Harpswell, Maine.