The Samuel T. Gladding Unsung Heroes Award recognizes professional counselors providing direct services to students and clients.


Sam Gladding, former American Counseling Association President and past Trustee of the American Counseling Association Foundation, has always advocated for professional counselors who provide direct services to students and clients. He believes their work is often overlooked and seldom recognized. Dr. Gladding refers to these dedicated individuals as Unsung Heroes.

Dr. Gladding and his wife, Claire, launched this award to recognize professional counselors providing direct services.

To be determined

To be determined

ACA Awards Committee

Complimentary registration for the 2024 ACA Conference and Expo (April 11-13, 2024 | New Orleans, LA), and recognition during event. Winners will receive further information at the time of award notification.

Sponsor: Dr. and Mrs. Gladding provided the initial funding for this award. The award has been funded by The American Counseling Association Foundation since 2014.


To be eligible, a nominee must:

  • Be licensed as a professional counselor.
  • Have been in the counseling profession for more than five years.
  • Work currently as a full-time practitioner (in school, mental health, rehabilitation counseling, etc.) providing direct services to clients or students.
  • Have not previously received state, division, regional or national awards or recognition from a counseling association more than once.
  • Nominations must come from an ACA member.
  • The awardee must be an ACA member.
  • An individual can only be nominated for one award per year. 


The total submission package for this award cannot exceed 16 pages in length. All nomination materials must be combined into one document (all formats accepted), with the nomination letter first.

Nomination letter: In the letter, identify the nominee and the specific award. Explain why you believe the nominee should receive the award by responding to the specific criteria outlined in the nomination guidelines. Keep in mind that the awards reviewers are relying on the information you provide to choose the most deserving recipient for the award. Please address each nomination guideline and make sure your nominee meets the award criteria and requirements. Brevity, clarity and specificity are most important here.

In the nominations submission:

  • Include a one-page summary explaining why the nominee would be a good choice to receive the Unsung Heroes Award. Include examples that distinguish this individual in terms of to their direct service work.
  • Dr. Gladding’s vision is to recognize and celebrate a counselor who does not draw attention to himself or herself, but who works for the good of others—someone who contributes his/her talents to their community and who is not generally recognized for his/her counseling work. Please address how the nominee meets these qualifications in the one-page summary.

Supporting materials: Include a nominee biography and a maximum of two letters in support of the nomination from others familiar with the nominee and her or his accomplishments. If there are additional materials (news reports, journal articles, etc.) that you feel help support the nominee’s achievements, please include a copy of them. You may also include a copy of the nominee’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume of no more than four pages, highlighting the nominee’s relevant accomplishments, if available. Keep in mind that the total submission cannot exceed 16 pages in length.