As the CEO of the American Counseling Association, I have many opportunities to meet leaders, members and those who are entering the counseling profession. Those who are newer to the profession or who are just starting along the leadership path bring energy, enthusiasm and new perspectives to the table. Just as I have great interest in and wish to support this cadre of professionals who will carry ACA and the profession into the middle of this century, I am continuously in awe of those who have already reached the pinnacle of the profession. Why? Because so many of them continue to want to give back.
Garry R. Walz, ACA’s 20th president and someone for whom I possessed great respect, was a prime example of this exceptional group of individuals. When I heard the news that Garry had passed away in December, it represented to me the extinguishing of one of counseling’s bright lights. It is uplifting to know, however, that the impact he had on so many current counselors and counselor educators will continue to keep his spirit alive (see ACA’s “In Memoriam”).
At Garry’s memorial service, I referenced a coffee mug that I use almost every day. On one side of the mug is a Chinese character, and on the other side is its English translation. The word is friends. Garry gave me that mug during one of his many trips to ACA headquarters over the past 20 years. I keep it pretty clean, and I never leave it in the ACA kitchen! It is something special from someone special.
That is how I will remember my friend, Garry Walz — as someone very special. Although I am nearly 30 years younger than Garry was, he never talked down or “pulled rank” on me (although given his many accomplishments, he certainly could have). Rather, Garry had a way of “talking up” and making those with whom he worked feel special. I knew him long enough to understand that this wasn’t an act. Garry was the real deal. He was a genuine person who cared about those he taught, mentored and worked beside.
Even into his 80s, Garry still had a twinkle in his eye whenever he was talking about his latest idea. And for those who knew him, Garry always had a new idea. Unlike others who might harbor lots of ideas, however, Garry had a way of making things happen and bringing his ideas to reality. He delivered on many fronts — as the longtime director of ERIC/CASS (the Educational Research and Information Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services), as the founding editor of VISTAS, as ACA’s 20th president and, I’d say perhaps even more important, as a friend, partner, father and grandpa.
When I arrive at the ACA Conference in San Francisco next month, I will miss seeing Garry. He didn’t attend just to visit with his friends of many years. He went to make new friends! And I am thinking he might have been there to bounce even more new ideas around. Plus, as an avid photographer, he always wanted to gather together as many VISTAS authors as possible so we could take a “class picture.” He was the consummate networker.
So, when the ACA past presidents gather, I will make sure to be with them to reminisce about Garry as we all toast what I think was a wonderful professional life. And when I get back to the office, I will be sure to clean my coffee mug and put it right back on my desk.