Bruce Shertzer, the 22nd president of the American Counseling Association and professor emeritus at Purdue University, passed away Dec. 25, 2017, at age 89. He led ACA, then called the American Personnel and Guidance Association, as president in 1973-1974 and was named an ACA fellow in 2013.
A longtime counselor educator, Shertzer is remembered as a gifted leader and scholar who cared deeply for his students and the counseling profession as a whole.
“Beyond his many scholarly contributions to the counselor training literature, he shared his knowledge and experiences in multiple ways, including becoming a visible association volunteer and leader,” recalls ACAeNews Editor Frank Burtnett, who was on staff at ACA during Shertzer’s presidency. “He was an effective listener, pulse taker and consensus builder — qualities he used to strengthen and guide ACA.”
An author and co-author of numerous journal articles and several counseling textbooks, Shertzer retired from Purdue in 1994. He was also a past president of the Indiana Counseling Association (1963-1964) and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (1970-1971) and a past chair of the ACA Foundation (late 1970s).
“Bruce served as our president during a key period in ACA’s growth and development, as well as when the profession was making great strides,” says ACA CEO Richard Yep. “It is people like Bruce who were able to help guide the organization to the position of prominence that it now enjoys. We are indebted to Bruce for his leadership. Our sadness at his passing lightens when we reflect on the impact he had on the counseling profession.”
Over the course of his career, Shertzer forged relationships with hundreds of graduate students, including serving as chair for 34 doctoral dissertations. One of those doctoral students was Loretta Bradley, who also went on to serve as president of ACA and is now a professor of counselor education at Texas Tech University. In addition to his dedicated leadership, Shertzer will be remembered for his writing and research skills, Bradley says.
“I found that while Dr. Shertzer had high expectations for his students, he was a warm, encouraging professor who sincerely cared about his students. I found him to be a great mentor, and in fact, he was a major influence in my involvement in the counseling profession,” says Bradley, who led ACA in 1998-1999. “Dr. Shertzer was devoted to his students and the counseling profession. Further, he was well-respected by his colleagues. Truly, he was a giant in our profession and will be sadly missed.”
Shertzer graduated with his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University. He began his career as a public high school teacher and school counselor, later serving as director of counseling and pupil personnel for the Indiana Department of Public Education.
In 1960, he was hired as an assistant professor at Purdue, beginning his 34-year tenure at the institution. He became a professor in 1965 and later served as chair of counseling and personnel services in Purdue’s Department of Education. In 1989, he was named head of the university’s Department of Educational Studies.
Over the course of his career, Shertzer taught as a visiting professor at several universities, both in the U.S. and abroad, including a year as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Reading in England.
Shertzer was appointed to the National Advisory Council for Career Education by U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare David Mathews, serving as its chair in 1976.
Shertzer often kept in touch with former students. After retiring, he continued to attend Purdue’s annual scholarship reception to meet the recipient of a scholarship established in his name.
As a graduate student in the 1960s, Brooke Collison remembers reading journal articles and textbooks that had been written by Shertzer. A decade later as a counselor educator, he assigned Shertzer’s writings to his own students.
“Bruce was a real gentleman who cared deeply about the counseling profession and about the professional association. He provided great leadership,” says Collison, professor emeritus at Oregon State University and ACA president in 1987-1988.
During Collison’s tenure as president-elect and president, he worked closely with Shertzer on different ACA initiatives. Collison recalls a humorous memory from one long work session when Shertzer, in an attempt to offer a much-needed snack and energy boost, burned a batch of popcorn so badly that it set off the smoke alarms in the hotel where they were working. “Bruce was terribly embarrassed, but it gave a tired task group some laughs,” Collison remembers.
Shertzer hired H. Allan Dye for his first counselor education position, just as Dye was finishing his doctorate. The duo worked together for close to three decades at Purdue before Dye moved on to Rollins College in Florida. Shertzer was a focused and extremely hard worker with seemingly endless energy and good humor, Dye says. As a department chair, Shertzer led by example.
“Bruce was highly effective as a leader because his focus was always upon function and outcome. His specialty was constructing the best organization and staffing it with individuals who were capable of performing successfully. He then advised, consulted and encouraged,” says Dye, professor emeritus of counseling at Rollins College. “In 28 years, I never heard him criticize a colleague’s teaching. It isn’t that he was never disappointed in others; he simply never mentioned it.”
“He was a consummate teacher, always fully prepared and skilled in developing strategies for getting students involved in their own learning,” Dye adds. “He didn't lecture and they didn’t recite; together they examined the experts and their own understanding. In view of the field’s relatively undeveloped repertoire of theory and practice at the time, nothing could have been more appropriate.”
A memorial service for Shertzer was held Dec. 30 in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he had lived since the 1960s. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Carol M. (Rice) Shertzer; his daughter, Sarah (Shertzer) Kleedehn and her husband, Rodney; and his son, Mark Eldon Shertzer, and his wife, Jamie (Lockridge) Shertzer.
More from his his obituary, originally published in the Journal & Courier of Lafayette, Indiana.