Joann Grayson retires


SUMMARY: After a career spanning over 40 years, Joann Grayson is officially stepping down from her work at JMU.

By: Trudy Horsting
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: Joann Grayson with student

L to R: Joann Grayson, Morgan Grant, and Christina Byun. 

It takes an exceptionally passionate person to retire in order to have more time to work, but that is exactly what Joann Grayson did. Grayson began working at JMU in the Department of Psychology in 1975, and formally retired from her full-time position in September of 2011. Despite this, she has continued to work extensively in the department as editor of the Virginia Child Protective Newsletter (VCPN) and supervisor for Psychology 202 - Introductory Field Work. This year she will officially step down from these positions; however, her impact on these two programs will live on through the supervision and guidance of her colleagues Debbie Sturm and David Szwedo, respectively.

In 1981, Grayson and one of her students at the time, Charlotte McNulty, won the bid from the Virginia Department of Social Services to assume responsibility for the VCPN. The newsletter strives to provide up to date information on a variety of topics for both professionals in the field of psychology and the community at large. Grayson says, “We have a very broad audience because child abuse and neglect prevention is a very broad community responsibility and it’s done by a multidisciplinary team.” Each newsletter issue provides a detailed analysis of a narrow topic and highlights organizations in Virginia that are effectively implementing programs relevant to that topic. It provides readers a resource for unfamiliar subjects. Grayson emphasizes one of the most rewarding parts of working on the newsletter has been learning about new topics herself. “It satisfies my curiosity,” she says. “I’m always researching a topic that I’m not an expert in and it’s fun to make contact with experts. I get to talk to people who are doing wonderful things throughout the commonwealth and the nation, and have them help put together a really good issue.”

The newsletter’s breadth has grown tremendously in the past 36 years. In addition to being accessible online, over 12,000 are mailed across the United States. By the time Grayson hands off the duty to Sturm, she will have produced 109 issues.   

In 1978, three years before she became involved with the VCPN, Grayson began her work with student field work placements. As supervisor, she is responsible for implementing student placements at community organizations that benefit from volunteers. When Szwedo arrived at JMU in 2014, he took over direction of the capstone field placement course. Both levels of field work provide students the opportunity for professional engagement with community organizations and to experience future career options firsthand. Szwedo explains, “Field placement gives students a chance to find meaning and relevance in their work.”  Likewise, it provides the agencies with valuable assistance and support, which is one of the reasons Grayson says it has been so hard to leave the program. She says, “Knowing it facilitates student growth and also assists the agency – that makes it difficult to retire”; however, she knows the program will remain in good hands. Szwedo says, “I’m looking forward to getting to know students who are a little earlier on in the major and helping them navigate their way through in a way that helps them continue to grow their interests.”  He continues, “I’m so grateful that Dr. Grayson founded this program and I’m just trying to keep it going and keep letting students have the experiences that she set out for them to have.”

In addition to coordinating student field work and editing the VCPN, Grayson has also worked as a licensed clinical psychologist at a local hospital during her retirement.  With official retirement from JMU, she looks forward to having a more flexible schedule where she can balance her time practicing psychology, interacting with her grandchildren and volunteering on her own. Despite this, she says, “There’s nothing I could do personally as a volunteer that would have the impact that students have had.” She explains the spread of influence saying, “The impact of one person doesn’t get multiplied the way it does when you’re supervising multiple students.”

Grayson says she hopes to have encouraged students to jump at every opportunity to make an impact on the world. “Life catches up with you and you may not be able to do things that you think are important or meaningful if you wait too long.” After a now 42 year career at JMU, Grayson leaves behind a legacy of dedication, determination and compassion. Her tangible work with the VCPN and Introductory Field Work will live on under the leadership of Sturm and Szwedo and Grayson is excited for the opportunity to see both programs continue to flourish. 

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Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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