JANUARY 23, 2023 — The counseling department and the entire UTSA community are mourning the loss of longtime UTSA faculty member Thelma Duffey. Duffey, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling in the College of Education and Human Development, passed away on Friday, December 30, 2022.
Duffey was a fixture in the UTSA community for nearly two decades, leaving a lasting impression on countless students and colleagues. She worked to uplift the next generation of counseling professionals both in and out of her classroom, serving as an advisor for numerous graduate students and chairing more than 35 student dissertations in addition to teaching.
Duffey also dedicated time to serve on over a dozen departmental and university committees during her tenure at UTSA.
“Dr. Duffey embodied every single quality one would want in a professor and leader,” said Mario Torres, dean of the UTSA College of Education and Human Development. “She was brilliant at her craft, an exceptionally selfless leader, a tireless advocate for her faculty, staff, students and colleagues, and treated every individual with grace, care and compassion. She had a unique and natural gift for inspiring others to realize their promise and potential both personally and professionally. It’s a devastating loss for COEHD, the university community and the counseling field at large.”
Duffey was passionate about mentoring, relational counseling and trauma-informed care. She had special interests in assisting families through grief and loss and helped provide support and consultation services for the those affected by the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and Sutherland Springs as part of her work.
Duffey found inspiration in creativity and her love for music and included these in her practice and research. To help promote such innovative counseling practices, Duffey founded the Association for Creativity in Counseling in 2004 as a new division of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Her goal was to bring together professionals, educators and students in the counseling field to research new and relational approaches to counseling. In addition to her role as founding president of the association, she served as editor of the division’s peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.
She was also involved in the ACA throughout her career and served as its 64th president from 2015-2016 and treasurer from 2018-2020. In addition, she championed national efforts to develop interstate counselor licensure portability. For her significant contributions to the counseling profession, Duffey was selected as an ACA Fellow in 2010 and received the Presidential Award and the Lifetime Membership Award from the organization. In 2008 she was awarded the inaugural Thelma Duffey Vision and Innovation Award, established that year by the Association for Creativity in Counseling at the ACA’s convention in Hawaii.
Additionally, Duffey cared deeply about anti-bullying research and advocacy, and these were key elements in her work during her time as ACA president.
“Dr. Duffey was a visionary leader who wholeheartedly supported students, staff and faculty both in the Department of Counseling and across the entire counseling profession,” said Heather Trepal, professor of counseling and the college’s associate dean for academic programs and student success. “I miss my beloved friend and colleague. The impact of her life and work cannot be understated.”
Duffey was born in Brownsville, Texas, and came to San Antonio to pursue higher education. She received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Master of Education degree from Trinity University. She later earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a doctorate in counseling from St. Mary’s University.
Duffey was a lifelong educator and began her teaching career in 1976 at Wrenn Junior High School in San Antonio. After spending a decade in primary and secondary education, Duffey transitioned into college education, and spent time teaching at Texas State University and her alma mater St. Mary’s University. She joined UTSA in fall 2004 and was promoted to full professor and counseling department chair in 2009.
Throughout her professional career, Duffey made substantial contributions to the counseling field and received several awards for her teaching and research. She authored over 40 peer-reviewed articles, co-authored many books and book chapters, and presented at both national and international conferences.
Duffey was also a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, operating a successful private practice in San Antonio for more than 20 years.
Duffey is survived by her children, Madelyn and Rob, and their father, Mike Duffey; her grandson, Max; her father, Richard; brothers, Richard and John; niece, Olivia; and her stepfather, Jim. She was preceded in death by her mother, Mary.
A memorial service for Duffey will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 19, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 315 E. Pecan Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205.
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