“Elephants are what counselors should be—empathic and caring”
By: Maia Farris
The College of Education’s Counseling Program Coordinator, Gene Eakin, shares an impactful story about a veterinarian whose death was mourned for by a group of elephants. The veterinarian cared for the elephants, and when he passed away, the elephant herd was reported to have stood in front of the veterinarian’s house and bowed their heads. Eakin’s favorite animal is an elephant because he believes that “elephants are what counselors should be—empathic and caring”.
This year we are congratulating Gene Eakin who has been awarded the 2017 Leona Tyler award. This annual award was established by the Oregon Counseling Association to recognize individuals whose work has had statewide implications for counseling. Eakin is the 8th person from Oregon State to receive the Leona Tyler award.
(Past winners listed here http://or-counseling.org/Past-Awards )
Eakin has worked hard on both the state and national level to strengthen school counseling and connect people to the current issues that are especially found in K-12 schools. This past June, Eakin and his wife Twila celebrated 50 years as OSU Alumni. As an alumus and experienced counselor educator, Eakin is passionate about his work in the counseling program. He is proud to share that in the counseling hybrid program (online and in person), 31 out of 35 students were working full time as they started their third year in the program. The hybrid format fulfills Oregon State University’s land grant mission in providing individuals from all areas of Oregon access to becoming a counselor.
Eakin’s counseling work has spanned forty-two years in Oregon working at Lebanon High School, West Salem High School, Lewis and Clark College, and Oregon State University. Being awarded the Leona Tyler award is unique and means a lot to Eakin, because previous award recipients have mainly been a part of the large population of clinical mental health counselors, and he is one of the few to be recognized for his work as a school counselor and school counselor educator.
He hopes that this award will give him a platform to “speak to the mental health needs of our children and adolescents.” Going forward, we need counselors who will advocate for these needs and have the empathic and caring traits of an elephant. There is an increase in the number of elementary school students who need this support; as elementary school counselors across the state report that more and more students’ lives have been affected by family trauma related to the recession and the resulting family poverty.
Eakin says, “there are a limited number of mental health counselors in most communities providing services to children and adolescents and Oregon, overall, ranks 49th in provision of mental health services to our citizens.” Eakin expressed that “we need more school counselors doing the good work that they do and more school social workers doing the good work they do in order for Oregon schools to increase attendance rates, graduation rates, post high-school education matriculation rates, and improve the behavioral and mental health of our students.” With Oregon’s student-counselor ratio (510-1) ranking 39th, Eakin vows that he will continue to advocate for the school counseling profession and for the work they do in meeting our youth’s career and college readiness, counseling needs, academic counseling needs, and personal-social-emotional counseling needs.