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Steven Danish

IN MEMORIAM: Steven Danish

On August 24, the fields of applied sport psychology, counseling, and community psychology lost one of its brightest stars with the passing of Dr. Steven Danish. Those of us who knew Steve will remember with great joy his sense of humor, zest for life, and passion for helping others. As a faculty member at The Pennsylvania State University and the Chair of the Psychology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, Steve mentored hundreds of graduate students who have gone on to excel in numerous helping professions. His frequently quoted statement that “physical and psychological injuries may be what people have, but they are not who we are”, exemplify his belief in the importance of building self-awareness through quality relationships. A prolific writer, Steve collaborated with professionals around the world and his Life-Span Develop Intervention model has guided the work of numerous professionals.    

After receiving his doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Michigan State University in 1969, Steve began his storied career as a pioneer in the field of Community Psychology. He developed, implemented and evaluated a number of community-based life skills programs that enhanced positive development for individuals in under resourced settings across the country. 

Steve’s passion for sport as an avid golfer and collegiate basketball coach led to his involvement in AASP and APA Division 47 at a time when these organizations were striving to promote sport psychology as a viable career track.  His belief in the importance of sport as a vehicle to assist youth in developing critical life skills led him to create and implement evidenced-based initiatives such as the First Tee’s Life Skills, the NCAA’s Youth Education through Sport (YES), Going for the Goal, and Sport United to Promote Education and Recreation (SUPER). Steve was on the development team that created and implemented the USOPC Career Assistance Program for Athletes (CAPA) and served as a member of Virginia’s Governor’s Commission on Sport and Physical Fitness.  

In addition, Steve’s belief that many of the veterans who were returning from active duty and diagnosed with PTSD were actually experiencing an identity crisis, led him to create FREE 4 Vets (Family, Relationships, Education, and Employment). Similar to the research on athletic identity, he believed that a strong and exclusive military identity could leave many veterans vulnerable to mental health issues at the conclusion of their active duty. FREE 4 Vets assisted veterans in developing life skills and supportive communities to assist them in coping with the loss of their military identity.

Steve received his undergraduate degree from Bucknell University and graduate degrees from Springfield College and Michigan State University, where he received Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. Over his career, he received numerous recognitions, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Counseling Psychology. He was an AASP Fellow, several APA Divisions, and the American Psychological Society. He leaves behind his wife of more than sixty years, Carole, two sons, Kyle and Chris, and four grandchildren.

We have lost a truly remarkable human, who set standards of empathetic understanding, relationship building, and caring that serves as a guide for all of us in the helping professions. 

Submitted respectfully,
Albert Petitpas