Baylor Psychology Professor Helen Benedict Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

October 15, 2012

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Helen E. Benedict, Ph.D., a professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, has been named the recipient of the annual Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Psychological Association. She will be presented with the award on Nov. 2 at the association's annual awards luncheon.
This award is generally given to a psychologist who has a long and distinguished record of exemplary professional service. The person receiving this award should be recognized as esteemed by other psychologists as well as by a wide range of professionals in other areas, with accomplishments recognized as outstanding at national and state levels, according to association criteria.
"My reaction was both surprise and great gratification," Benedict said. "I have spent the past 32 years of my career in Texas primarily training psychologists. Being recognized this way is extremely meaningful and tells me I have achieved many of my goals for my career.
Benedict's contributions to the field of child psychology are significant, said Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., chair of the department of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
"Her early work in child language has been cited as a critical concept in cognitive development," he said. "She is also a highly sought-after expert in play therapy and issues of attachment, giving talks and leading workshops all over the world. Her passion for and devotion to the betterment of children's lives is probably best exemplified by her work in early intervention for at-risk children at the Talitha Koum Institute. At Baylor, over the last 30 years, Helen has played a key role in the success of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program and has been a beloved mentor to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students.
"Helen's career is indelibly marked by her dedication to the profession, her students, the community and her colleagues," Diaz-Granados said.
Benedict was nominated by clinical psychologist Dr. Heyward L. Green of Scott and White Clinic in Waco, a member of the Texas Psychological Association Board of Trustees.
In his nomination letter, Green -- who was mentored by Benedict during his training -- recalled her presentation more than 30 years ago when she was a candidate for a faculty position at Baylor.
Benedict was "an unforgettable figure" with "an articulate and scholarly professional demeanor in combination with the physical bearing of her tall stature . . . Later when she would become a part of the Baylor faculty, we students would encounter not only the imposing figure of that first meeting, but also the remarkable no-nonsense candor that could cut through whatever pretentiousness and contrived conflicts that frequently arise and flourish in academic settings," Green wrote.
Benedict is, in some ways, "a collection of paradoxes," he said. Benedict is "a rigorous academic whose command of information could potentially leave many persons in the room feeling a bit slow and uninformed," but she also is "sensitive and caring therapist who could establish comfort and safety for young, vulnerable children rapidly in the playroom and who could readily engage in self-effacing humor.
"She could present as a refined, impeccably-mannered woman of regal bearing as easily as she don Hungarian peasant garb to welcome students into her home for a festive ethnic-themed celebration," Green wrote. "As quickly as she could zero in on some therapeutic blunder of a trainee, she would just as readily display a playroom calamity of her own in videotaped sessions."
Besides her leadership and teaching at Baylor, Benedict has made contributions as a choir member and well-loved member of her church, Green said. She also is a volunteer for several local agencies addressing children's needs.
Benedict completed her B.A. at Connecticut College and earned a Ph.D. in developmental and child clinical psychology at Yale University, where she was twice named the recipient of the Psi Chi Award for Excellence in Teaching. She began her career as an assistant professor at Michigan State University. She came to Baylor in 1981 and is a former chair of the department of psychology and neuroscience.
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University's oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 26 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.