John S. Westefeld knows all too well the importance of suicide awareness and prevention. A close friend of John's committed suicide many years ago—an event that played a significant role in John's career choice.
Throughout his 42-year professional career—including 25 years at the University of Iowa—John has been a passionate teacher, scholar, and leader who dedicated his life's work to suicide awareness and prevention. In 1991, he came to Iowa as director of the counseling psychology PhD program.
While at Iowa, John was a significant mentor—both personally and professionally—to many doctoral students who have gone on to a wide variety of careers. His mentorship culminated in being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring by the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP). In both undergraduate and doctoral-level classes, he has taught students about how to work with suicidal patients, how to research the issue, and how to conduct suicide prevention workshops.
John has been a national leader in his profession, as well as a community advocate. He has served as president of SCP, written numerous pieces in leading academic journals, and spoken on the topic of suicide and suicide prevention at countless events, training seminars, and lectures. He has also advocated in multiple venues for increased suicide awareness.
John retired in 2016 as an emeritus professor and then worked until 2020 in private practice. Today, he continues to stay active in the university and psychological community through a variety of consulting activities, including providing suicide prevention workshops.
Daniel Clay, dean of the UI College of Education, says: "It is impossible to know how many lives have been saved thanks to John Westefeld and the ripple effect of students he mentored and inspired. John's work in the college and in the community is marked by passion for people, and he has a tremendous legacy of making a difference in the lives of so many."
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.