Derner Institute alumni share stories and memories of the Derner Institute's founding dean.

Save the Date for A Celebration of Gordon F. Derner’s Life and Legacy on Friday, November, 13, 2015 with a keynote address by Peter Fonagy, Ph.D.  

  • “Large in body, mind, heart and spirit.”
  • “A quirky mensch with a heart of gold.”
  • “An awesome teacher, mentor and role model.”

These are just a few of the many fond ways that alumni describe Gordon F. Derner, Ph.D., the founding dean and namesake of Adelphi University’s Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies.

In honor of what would have been Dr. Derner’s 100th birthday—April 9, 2015—we invited faculty and alumni to share recollections of him.

Many remembered Dr. Derner’s infectious zeal for life. He was a world traveler who showed great love and respect for his family, friends and colleagues.

His annual Christmas party became legendary. It was held in his home amid a menagerie of animals he collected, including a ferret and snake. “It was Gordon Derner; it was the Gordon Derner party,” recalled Derner Institute Professor Robert Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Post-Doc. Cert.’83.

“When I talk to older alumni…I mention Gordon’s name and they get tearful,” Dr. Mendelsohn said. “He had such a tremendous impact, not only on our profession but on our school…and created such a sense of community.”

Here, alumni share their recollections of Gordon Derner as a teacher, leader and friend.

For more memories, please see the excerpts from the eulogies given in 1983 by George Stricker, Ph.D., and Joe Newirth, Ph.D.

We also invite you to share you own memories of Dr. Derner!

Gordon Derner (center) talking with Adelphi colleagues

Gordon Derner (center) talking with Adelphi colleagues .

Derner Alumni Remember Gordon F. Derner, Ph.D.

A Visionary Who Transformed Psychology Education

“The Institute of Advanced Psychology was a leader in the field and a precursor to the current professional psychology programs. His foresight still resonates throughout the field in terms of continuing to enlarge our identity and impact as practitioners.” —G. Rita Dudley Grant, Ph.D. ‘80

“He was clearly a visionary who defined norms for professional psychology and set the agenda for the pedagogical enterprise. [The Derner Institute] was the prototype for all other professional schools. It is hard to imagine what the field would look like without the likes of Gordon Derner.” —Alexander Levi, Ph.D. ’75

“Gordon’s legacy is being followed and built upon.” –Norma Cox Astwood, Ph.D. ‘75

“Gordon Derner’s greatest impact is through the ongoing excellence of the Institute’s faculty, students and alumni. He created an environment where distinct individuals found acceptance. He also created an environment where—to this very day—serious learning and laughter flourish.” —Carolida Steiner, Ph.D. ’77, Post Doc. Cert. ’83

A Mentor and Role Model

“He was filled with life. He was very caring. If a student was having a problem, the student would come to his office and he could be there three to four hours with the student…His life was Adelphi, our Institute.” —Robert Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Post-Doc. Cert.’83, Derner Institute Professor

“He has been a role model…breaking the mold. His love of the profession of psychology and pride in us as students is something that I am now trying to bring to my practice and work in the Caribbean.” —G. Rita Dudley Grant, Ph.D. ‘80

“Gordon exhibited the highest professional standards of practice and professional ethics.” —Norma Cox Astwood, Ph.D. ‘75

“Gordon, when we first entered the Institute, charged the class with the respect that he now consider us professionals who should conduct ourselves accordingly, and it was our responsibility to garner what we could from our Institute experience.” —Alexander Levi, Ph.D. ’75

“When I started the [Ph.D.] program, I was a busy, fun-loving, and anxious twentysomething.  I always called Gordon ‘Dr. Derner.’ We were not ‘close.’ Nonetheless, he saw potential in me.  I, in turn, always looked for the potential in my patients—both children and adults. Dr. Derner trusted that I would do something good.  Now, more than ever, I am grateful for his confidence in me.”—Carolida Steiner, Ph.D. ’77, Post Doc. Cert. ’83

“Now 40 years after my initial meeting of Gordon, some of his comments come to me as I am working with patients. Gordon’s emphasis on training in ethics has continued to be a valuable guiding principle in my work.” — Richard B. Maxfield, Ph.D. ’76

A Trailblazer Who Diversified Professional Psychology

“He was astonishingly committed to diversity and really walked the talk. He always gave us encouragement…. He demonstrated his determination to bring clinical focus to the Ph.D. and diversity to the profession!”  —G. Rita Dudley Grant, Ph.D. ‘80

“He was…a trailblazer with people of color. At one point in the 1970s, little Adelphi University graduated more black…Ph.D.’s in clinical psychology than any other program in the country.”—Robert Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Post-Doc. Cert.’83, Derner Institute Professor

“Gordon’s impact on my career has enabled me to offer an array of professional services adapted to different cultures, ethical and racial backgrounds in a resourceful manner that allowed flexibility and understanding of the treatment needs of young and old across different cultures in different countries.” —Norma Cox Astwood, Ph.D. ‘75

“Gordon understood the needs of different cultures and allowed his conceptualization of those cultures to benefit from psychological practice. In so doing, his vision of training would-be psychologists exposed them to the need to learn about different needs and inculcate that understanding into their practice options.” —Norma Cox Astwood, Ph.D. ‘75

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