Professor Retires from Teaching but Not from Practicing

Dr. Dick ColeAfter 35 years of faithful service to the College, Dr. Dick Cole, professor of psychology, retired in May and was honored with emeritus status at the spring Commencement ceremony. Cole joined Trinity’s faculty in 1979.

Earlier in his own educational journey, he planned to serve in ministry in order to pursue his longtime call to counseling. In the early 70s, several challenges existed in the field of counseling, including the gap between the study of psychology and the Christian community’s trust in the practice. In addition, most college psychology programs were research focused rather than counseling focused and even fewer were taught from a Christian perspective.

While pursuing his master’s at Covenant Theological Seminary in Missouri, Cole picked up a copy of the Journal of Psychology and Theology published by the Rosemeade School of Psychology at Biola University, which had one of the first graduate psychology programs with a Christian emphasis.

“I remember thinking, ‘Now we’re talking,’” Cole said. “It was an exciting time, but there just were not many places to pursue that type of education.”

Trinity’s psychology program, however, was geared toward the counseling side of psychology, which attracted Cole to the faculty opening in 1979. After accepting a professorship, he continued his education, earning his Ph.D. from Saint Louis University.

Cole said that over the years, Trinity’s program has evolved under the leadership of Dr. Michael DeVries ’74, chair of the department and Cole’s longtime colleague and friend. The program grew to be more competitive, especially early on, preparing students for licensure, something that wasn’t a requirement for counselors years ago.

While teaching, Cole remained active in counseling practice, devoting 17 years to the Christian Counseling Center in Orland Park, Illinois. Three years ago, he was invited to join his two former students, Chris Yadron ’93 and Michelle (Vruggink) Van Noord ’98, at their practice, Clinical Associates in Counseling, LLC, in Orland Park, where he continues to counsel.

As a professor, Cole integrated his professional experience into his teaching, something his students appreciated since most of them planned to pursue clinical work or counseling. He strived to relate the bulk of classroom discussion to the clinical world, including therapeutic techniques and diagnostics. Students also found his insight into developments in the field and the route to a counseling career valuable, especially during the years when the field of psychology was evolving.

Cole was also instrumental in placing students in internships and helping to develop Trinity’s graduate psychology program. He also spent several years overseeing OPUS, the annual student scholarship event.

Yet helping students move from freshman year through senior year into careers as practicing therapists has been his most rewarding work as a professor. While recalling his contributions to the College, Cole said that he has in turn received much from his time at Trinity, including his interactions with students and the friendships he has established.

“Trinity also gave me my wife, Lois,” said Cole. Graduating from Trinity in elementary education when the College was still a two-year institution, Lois ’67 started the physical education major and taught here. The Coles have two children, Jacob and Jennifer.

In his faculty profile, Cole stated that he saw his task to be “helping the students get a sure foundation, a place to stand, to see and evaluate the world of psychology.” And he taught students that God is the author of the psychological domain. “It is our job to know it and take care of it.”