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Distinguished Contribution to Social Justice

By Elaine Pinderhughes, MSW

June 10, 2010

Marlene Watson, PhD, who will be our 2009 recipient of the Award for Distinguished Contribution to Social Justice, became an advocate for social justice very early in her life.

Although her own family was poor, at Christmas Marlene insisted on leaving money for Santa to help him buy presents for other poor children. Again she admonished friends and family members for joining the cowboys in a movie western in ridiculing and making derogatory statements against the Indians who had made them drunk. Throughout her life she has been an individual who despite personal sacrifice and attack has been willing to stand unmoved against injustice and to sometimes be the lone voice for change.

As chair of the Couple and Family Therapy Department at Drexel University, Marlene has been a visionary and a trailblazer, transforming the Couple and Family Therapy Department at Drexel University into an efficient, effective racially diverse faculty and student body in order to increase the pool of culturally competent and minority professionals needed to address the cultural chasm that consumers face in accessing mental health. Recognized as one of ten “cultural healers” and innovative therapists by The Utne Reader for her remarkable work with substance dependent prison inmates and their families, and, finding herself to be the lone advocate for mental health at a Press Conference during the “Cover the Uninsured Week” in Philadelphia in 2003, she sought and received the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Award, becoming the first ever couple and family therapist to do so.

True to her personal mandate of holding the door open after walking through, she proudly recruited the second couple and family therapist recipient of this outstanding award.