Mark Pope, chair and professor of counseling and family therapy at UMSL, was honored by the National Career Development Association as one of the nine most extraordinary leaders in the 100-year history of the career counseling profession. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Being recognized as a leader in your field is an amazing honor. But sharing that distinction with a select few and having your former professor and mentor among those spotlighted with you is even more endearing.

Mark Pope, chair and professor of counseling and family therapy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was honored by the National Career Development Association as one of the nine most extraordinary leaders in the 100-year history of the career counseling profession. Pope was able to share this recognition with his former professor and mentor Norman Gysbers, Curators’ Professor of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri–Columbia.

“It was very special to receive this and to share it with him,” Pope said. “He’s been a great mentor to me.”

The honor, which took place recently during the 2013 Global Conference in Boston, recognized nine of the profession’s most renowned leaders, each of whom had served as both the National Career Development Association president and American Counseling Association president, and had received the Eminent Career Award, the highest and most prestigious award in the profession.

But Pope is no stranger to receiving recognition for his tireless contributions to the career counseling field, in particular focusing on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Over the last two years he’s received several career-highlight awards. Most recently he was given the Lifetime Career Achievement Award from the Missouri Career Development Association. He received the 2012 GLBT Educator of the Year Award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2012 he received the inaugural Diversity Initiative Award from the National Career Development Association. In addition, he is a fellow of the National Career Development Association, American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association, Society of Counseling Psychology (APA Division 17), Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues (APA Division 44), and Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues (APA Division 45). He also previously served as the editor of The Career Development Quarterly, the foremost professional journal in career counseling and career development.

Known as the grandparent of career counseling for the LGBT community, Pope is an recognized international expert in various aspects of counseling with sexual minorities, including gay and lesbian career development; violence in schools against sexual minority youths; sexual behavior in aging gay men; and psychological testing with sexual minorities. He has advocated for more than 35 years for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals, as well as all members of under-represented and culturally marginalized groups in American society. He is the author of more than 100 articles, books, book chapters and other publications dealing with multicultural awareness and career development. He has served on numerous organizations and committees whose specific interests involve multiculturalism and career concerns.

Pope, of University City, Mo., grew up in rural Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri–Columbia, where he discovered his love and passion for career counseling. It was also there that he first began to really be himself.

“Being closeted is not a good thing and being afraid is not a good thing,” Pope said.

The more he learned about career counseling, the more he knew he needed to be a part of it and to help members of the LGBT community because at the time there was no help.

“This was the 1970s and homosexuality was still part of the psychiatric illness manual. It was not until 1973 that that was finally removed,” he said.

Pope went into private career counseling practice in San Francisco, and at one time had eight career counselors working for him. But he had always wanted to be a part of the academic world and began applying for faculty positions at three different universities: California State University in Sacramento, the University of Houston and UMSL.

“I interviewed at all three and I received offers from all three.  I felt like the Barry Bonds of academics,” Pope said. “But UMSL was the one that was a doctoral degree-granting program, and I think that’s really critical in making a name for yourself in the profession – turning out more professors, more counselor educators. So it was an easy choice.”

In 1997, he and his husband, Mario, an accomplished artist, moved to St. Louis, and Pope began his first faculty position. He was charged with gaining national accreditation for the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Family Therapy, which was accomplished in 2001.

“I’m a fast guy, I get things done,” Pope said with a smile. “I’m really a doer, that’s really the bottom-line of who I am, my core. I’m really not a philosopher, I’m a practitioner and a doer and an organizer. I’m proud of being one of the people who took the department from where it was to where it is now and made it nationally accredited, including being only one of nine programs nationally accredited in career counseling, and turned it into one of the top five counselor preparation programs in the entire country. That’s such a huge and important contribution, and I’m very, very proud of that,” said Pope, who has been chair of the department for the last six years.

But Pope said he’s not done yet, and he has no plans to slow down in the near future.

“For me it’s not just about being a pioneer, its’ also about maintaining because I’m not someone who does something and then just leaves,” he said. “I’m really someone who is going to persist. I think that’s why I’ve really been so successful; it’s passion but it’s also persistence. Because it’s not just about me, it’s about what remains after you are gone and how it can continue on.”

In addition to Pope and Gysbers, the other professions recognized as extraordinary leaders in the 100 year history of the career counseling profession from the National Career Development Association are: Edward Roeber (Michigan State University), Donald Super (Columbia University), Edwin Herr (Pennsylvania State University), Sunny Hansen (University of Minnesota), Ken Hoyt (Kansas State University), Lee Richmond (Loyola University-Maryland) and Jane Goodman (Oakland University).

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton