A Tribute to Robert J. Nejedlo
Illinois’ beloved Robert J. Nejedlo, 77, passed away peacefully Wednesday, December 4, 2013. A native of Wisconsin Nejedlo received his B.A. Degree from St. Norbert College in 1958 and earned two advanced degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1962 and 1964. He was a star in the counseling field from the state to national levels.
After an early career as a high school English teacher and counselor, Nejedlo became an assistant professor in Counselor Education at Northern Illinois University in 1967. Prior to this he was a high school English teacher and counselor. In 1974, as a full professor he became the Director of the NIU Counseling and Student Development Center for ten years, then served as Counseling Faculty Chair 1990-1993; he retired in 1997. From 1997-2004 he was an adjunct faculty member at Governors State University.
Nejedlo’s exceptional leadership from 1975 to 2010 includes President of IGPA 1976-77, NCACES, 1979-80, ACES 1983-84, AACD 1988-89, ICES 1994-95, IAADA 1999-2001 and 2008-09, ICA Past President’s Chapter 2006-07, and the Illinois Counseling Association Foundation 2005-I0. He was also an Illinois Counseling Association Foundation founding member and consultant during the process of obtaining tax-exempt status.
Nejedlo served three years as ICA Parliamentarian. He chaired numerous committees including ICA Bylaws and Strategic Planning; ACA Media, Public Awareness and Support, Strategic Planning, and Bylaws; and ACES Mentoring and Networking and the Counselors of Tomorrow Interest Network. He was a member of ICA, ACA, and ACES governing bodies; Coordinator, 1985 ACES International Symposium, Venice, Italy; Program Co-coordinator, 1976 APGA Convention (11,000 participants); Host, 1981 Conference of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors and served on the AUCCCD Steering Committee for four years; secretary-treasurer, Pupil Personnel Services Consortium; and Pupil Personnel Advisory Board, Illinois Office of Education.
Nejedlo was among the first to bring visioning/strategic planning to all levels of the counseling field, helping to shape the face of the profession. He was a bylaws guru. Between 1966 and 2008 Nejedlo contributed over fifty articles to national and state professional counseling journals and book chapters. He made numerous convention and conference presentations. In writing, presenting, and committee work he was a leader in mentoring and networking, values, developmental counseling, supervision, career development, cultural and racial diversity, counselors of tomorrow, and aging.
In 1991 Nejedlo received ICA’s most prestigious award, the C. A. Michelman Award in recognition of outstanding service to ICA and professional counseling. Among his other awards were the ICES and IAADA Distinguished Service Awards. He was recognized by receiving a NDEA Fellowship, 1961-64. In 2008 ICA established the Robert J. Nejedlo Distinguished Leadership Award to honor his exemplary leadership. This award recognizes an exceptional ICA leader who has provided sustained leadership within the Association. He was the first recipient.
Nejedlo has touched three generations of our lives as mentor, friend, advisor, role model, and consultant. ICA leaders and members viewed him as a sage, consulting with him and continuing to ask him to serve in positions of leadership. He generously shared his time and exemplary talents. The most rewarding aspect of his leadership in counseling organizations was the professional relationships developed with colleagues. He is held in deepest respect for the stability, dedication, leadership, wisdom, and profound inspiration Dr. Robert J. Nejedlo provided to us and the entire counseling profession.
Tribute by: Dr. Melanie Rawlins
Reflections from Colleagues
As a young professional, I observed Dr. Nejedlo’s leadership skills while participating in ICA activities and meetings. This weighed heavily in my selecting NIU for doctoral study, where he was director of the Counseling Department. I am fortunate to have had a fulfilling educational experience thanks to Dr. Nejedlo, who also chaired my dissertation committee. Bob would empower and inspire his students. His classes involved deep discussions, expanding our hearts as well as our minds. Bob “walked the walk,” modeling a commitment to the profession and exemplifying a way of life which sought compromise over conflict, and emphasized inclusion, acceptance, and genuine regard of others. In his last few years, he chose to deal with his own Alzheimers with grace, acceptance and dignity. It is an honor to have worked with him, and to consider him my friend, mentor, and role model.
Dr. Stephany Joy-Newman
When I arrived at Northern Illinois University in 1990 Dr. Nejedlo was an icon at the University and in the counseling profession. I met him when he was ACA President. Bob helped bring me to NIU and assisted me in my career until he retired. Bob was my mentor and frequently we presented together. We served on state committees promoting school counseling, and he helped launch me into offices in ICA, NCACES and ISCA. Bob loved our profession and was loyal to its professional associations. His legacy lives on in the students and other professionals whom he inspired and supported.
Dr. Toni Tollerud
I have always been in awe of Dr. Nejedlo. I was a school counselor in 1970 when I joined ACA and ICA. Bob was in leadership positions and exemplified what I aspired to in the counseling profession. His competency, gentleness, professionalism and wisdom were attributes that he shared with all fellow counselors. I was proud when, as President of ACA, he led the organization in the same manner as he did ICA. Bob mentored me, and we became friends.
Harvey Kelber, LCPC
Dr. Nejedlo hired me into my first counselor education position at Northern Illinois University. He continued to be supportive throughout my career. Bob always was interested in what I was "up to." I called him my "retirement role model," because he frequently traveled overseas like I wished to do. I will miss his fond “hello” at professional events.
Dr. Fran Giordano
Dr. Nejedlo was an insightful advisor, colleague, encourager, leader, and listener for the 18 years I worked with him in ICA. He was exemplary with a lasting legacy, which will continue to shine the true meaning of professionalism for all of us in counseling.
Kris Sandra Wheatley, LCPC
I became acquainted with Dr. Nejedlo during my doctoral work, learning his reputation in Illinois and nationally. After becoming a counselor educator, I often found myself in Bob's presence, observing his way of dealing with people, thinking, and achieving group consensus. As a more established professional, I worked with Bob more frequently, and our relationship evolved through co-worker and collaborator to friend. Together we wrote the first Illinois Model for Developmental Counseling. There were many Nejedlo qualities I admired and wanted to emulate. The one that stood out was his ability to mediate conflict. He heard both sides of an argument, was patient in responding, and emerged with those in conflict finding middle ground. Bob’s legacy to me is ample memories, which will inform my thinking for a lifetime.
Dr. Dale Septeowski
Dr. Nejedlo and I co-taught school counseling classes at GSU. With Bob’s presence our program was able to survive the loss of a faculty member. Bob always made the long drive, taught, and then spent time with his daughter and family. Several times my family from overseas was invited to his home for dinner. I will always remember Bob for his gentleness and aesthetic approach to tasks at hand. He gave me lily-of-the-valley plants from his yard; now they are spreading in my yard. Bob's life has taken root in many lives and in our profession.
Dr. Julia Yang
Make a gift today in memory or in honor of a colleague or mentor like Bob!