Richard Craig

Counselor finds life's work at Diakon; offers nearly half-century of compassionate service

Williamsport, Pa.    Friday, January 6, 2017

A half-century of service is a hallmark not many achieve.

So no one should quibble over three short years, when you consider the recent retirement of therapist Richard Craig, M.A., from Diakon Family Life Services at the 47-year mark—and at the age of 80.

Craig retired the last day of 2016 and “it’s really difficult to put into words the impact Richard had not only on our clientele, but also on our office culture,” says Laurel Spencer, Diakon Family Life Services executive director of Family Life Services.

“Richard’s deeply analytical and philosophical nature is balanced by a sincere and loving presence that we have grown to rely on through the years.”

Nicknamed “Dapper Dan” because of his keen sense of style, Craig has been praised for his professionalism, calm nature, authentic kindness and “down to earth” personality.

“He genuinely cares about his patients. He goes above and beyond to make each one of them feel comfortable,” says Holly Shedden, a support staff member at Diakon Family Life Services. “I think that is why he has stayed so long—he wants to make a difference in the lives of others.” 

Holding approximately 1,200 therapy sessions a year, Craig estimates he has seen some 10,000 clients over the years—young, old, individuals and couples. He provided counseling on such topics as anger management, marriage, relationships and family issues.

“No one is healed alone. I grow and learn with every client I see,” says Craig, whose office is adorned with symbolic Buddha statues and Christian figurines as well as a copy of his favorite book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff.”

“Going into his office was like walking into your friend’s living room.”

“I am grateful to have had a wonderful opportunity to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time to grow and learn. When I look back, it doesn’t seem long—it’s a timeless category,” he says.

With a liberal arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley, the California native—who was a celebrated Pacific Coast body surfer—left his home state to teach psychology at  Shimer College, an affiliate of the University Chicago.

Awarded the Woodrow Wilson teaching scholarship, he completed graduate work at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and ultimately obtained a position at Lycoming College, Williamsport, where he was assistant professor of psychology and counselor at the student mental health center.

It was there he realized that he needed to be engaged full-time in counseling, which, he says, encompasses his love for learning and teaching. Fulfilling what he calls his lifelong calling, he accepted a position with what is now Diakon Family Life Services in 1969.

“Counseling is the script of my life. Everything is like a classroom. If you sign up for the class, do the best you can and maximize your potential and enjoy doing it,” he says.

Living by his own teachings, he has “gently transformed” others’ lives by seeing his clients through the eyes of love and acceptance.

“I felt I needed to be here,” he says. “I am forever indebted to Diakon. In the course of giving, I have received as much or more through the work I have done here. I am grateful for the clients, coworkers, administrators and the corporate structure that have made my destiny possible.”

As he retires, he will begin to write the next chapter of his life, but not without being fondly remembered by his Diakon family.

“Richard changed my perspective on counseling,” says former client Kristie Hughes. “Going into his office was like walking into your friend’s living room. He is going to be missed.”

Colleagues will feel his absence as well.

“I’ve witnessed staff gravitate toward him as a teacher and calming force,” says Spencer.

“His was often the voice challenging us to think more expansively and always with a focus on bringing kindness and acceptance to those we serve. We will all really miss him.”

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