Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Lee Richmond: A Life Designed to Take the Counseling Profession to New Places

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Lee Richmond: A Life Designed to Take the Counseling Profession to New Places

Article excerpt

The first author had just begun her first-ever roundtable presentation at a national conference when a woman with a gentle smile sat down to join the conversation. During the presentation, she was encouraging. Afterward, she stayed to chat and invited me to coffee. I learned her name, Lee Richmond, and recognized that she had been a president of the National Career Development Association (NCDA; 1988-1989) and the American Counseling Association (ACA; 1992-1993). Initially, I was intimidated, but her kindness put me at ease. After we parted, I thought that I must learn who this woman is, how she got this way, and how I can become like her. After benefitting from several conversations with her at conferences, I had the courage to ask if I might interview her to learn about her life-career path. Reluctantly, she agreed, humbly saying that she did not deserve to be singled out. I had learned that she was a colleague of David Tiedeman (Richmond & Pope, 2008), the first constructionist career theorist and counselor. Thus, I suggested that our conversation include a Career Construction Interview (CCI; Savickas, 2011; http://vocopher.com/CSI/CCI.pdf) so that I could learn the truths of her life as well as give shape to her stories in the form of a life portrait. Wanting to ensure that I conducted a good interview, I recruited a faculty member from my doctoral program, Tracy Lara, to assist me in preparing for the interview and its publication.

Going Places to Help People Who Hurt

The most important of the five questions in the CCI asks for early recollections. The intent is to learn the perspective that a person takes on life and identify major life themes. Lee's first story described her mother coming home from the hospital with her new sister. Lee said,

I may have been jealous of the newborn displacing me in the family. I used to play with sandpaper. I tried to make rocks smooth with sandpaper. I tried to smooth the baby's hand with the sandpaper and her hands bled. The baby cried. That is when I decided that I did not want to hurt people anymore. I remember it because of the emotional impact my behavior had on others.

Lee's second story involved her cousin, Gordon. Lee said,

Together, we got a box from the grocery store. It was a wooden box with a piece of wood down the center which made two wonderful seats for us. The box was in the cellar but we traveled all over the world. It was our airline. We used our imagination to travel the world in that box. Gordon would always sit in front of the box and I would always sit in the back. This always made me angry.

Later during the interview I learned that Lee's original occupational preference was airline pilot. When I asked what drew her to that occupation, she said,

The same things that drew me to flying an airplane in the basement . . . imagination, adventure, speed, nontraditional for women, independence. As a matter of fact, when I was 14 years old, I had saved enough money from babysitting to take a train and cab to the airport in Washington to buy a plane ticket to fly back home to Baltimore. Later on, I wanted to be a historian and a writer.

Constructionist counselors have the participants interpret the meaning of their memories for themselves by composing a title for the story. Lee titled the sandpaper incident as "I Didn't Mean to Hurt You" and the airplane flights as "Going Places." So, we have her perspective on life: go places to help others, and do not hurt anyone. Typically, a painful early story tells us what the person will not become. For example, if it is full of fear, the person will not be fearful. Instead, the person becomes brave. So, Lee's fundamental perspective or life theme is to not hurt people, but instead to help people and comfort those who bleed and cry out in pain. It also involves welcoming people and making them feel a sense of belonging, as she did for the first author at the conference. From the second story, we learn the importance of three things: being on the go, using imagination, and not taking a back seat to men. …

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