Developing the Whole Person

A Practitioner’s Tale of Counseling, College, and the American Promise

by Tom McCarthy (Author)
©2018 Textbook XVI, 358 Pages


Using the professional life of psychologist-educator Thomas N. McCarthy as a touchstone, Developing the Whole Person: A Practitioner’s Tale of Counseling, College, and the American Promise explores the achievements and difficulties of postwar counseling psychologists and psychologist-administrators in American higher education. They advanced a whole person development model for student life inside and outside the classroom, despite skepticism from faculty and other administrators and the emergence of a potent student freedom model in the late 1960s that insisted students were adults. These two models have persisted in tension with one another ever since.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Developing the Whole Person
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Poverty, Education, and Opportunity
  • Chapter Two: Developing the Whole Person
  • Chapter Three: A College and a Community
  • Chapter Four: Counseling and Community
  • Chapter Five: Competence
  • Chapter Six: Psychologists and the Church
  • Chapter Seven: The College and the War
  • Chapter Eight: Redefining Community
  • Chapter Nine: A Place for Women
  • Chapter Ten: We’ll Know It When We See It
  • Chapter Eleven: Students for Individual Rights
  • Chapter Twelve: The Search
  • Epilogue
  • Index

← viii | ix →




Figure 1.1:Thomas N. McCarthy and mother H. Ruth McCarthy at college graduation from Catholic University, June 1950.
Figure 4.1:McCarthy with student in the La Salle Counseling Center, Spring 1957.
Figure 5.1:La Salle students outside the Library, mid-1960s.
Figure 7.1:Sit-in protesting compulsory ROTC, College Hall, April 1969.
Figure 8.1:McCarthy talking with concerned students on the Quadrangle, October 30, 1969.
Figure 9.1:Students in the La Salle cafeteria after the admission of women, 1970.
Figure Epilogue.1:McCarthy at retirement luncheon, March 23, 1996.

← ix | x →

← x | xi →




The first acknowledgement rightfully belongs to Thomas N. McCarthy, without whom—in more ways than one—this book would not exist. I want to thank him for indulging my curiosity with so much of his free time and also for being so curious about the historical context of his own life as well. That spirit made this book possible.

La Salle University was and remains a community, especially for those who taught and worked there in the second half of the twentieth century. Its unfailing generosity sustained and inspired me. For interviews, help with related journal articles, fielding specific queries, referrals to others, and reading parts of the book in draft (sometimes several iterations), special thanks are owed John J. Rooney, Peter J. Filicetti, and John L. McCloskey. Although he was only at La Salle a brief time, long-time family friend Robert J. Willis deserves special thanks as well. La Salle historian and historian of La Salle John P. Rossi graciously read the La Salle chapters, made a number of suggestions, and shared with me some of his own observations about being a La Salle student and faculty member.

Thanks are due to everyone who spoke with me for the interviews that were an important part of this book, including, in addition to Rooney, Filicetti, and McClos­key, Brother Joseph Grabenstein, FSC, Brother Charles E. Gresh, FSC, Charles A. J. Halpin, Jr., Brother Emery C. Mollenhauer, FSC, and Bertram Strieb. These interviews were invariably conversations with accomplished life-long ← xi | xii → educators that transcended the questions at hand. I want to specially thank three former La Salle students for wonderful interviews: Mary Ellen O’Donnell, Patricia Haydt Nault, and Michael Card. They were the type of engaged, questioning students that faculty love in person but that administrators sometimes prefer to love in the abstract, or at least when they are not making the present more challenging. Their memories and insights enriched this book.

This book was written thanks to a tremendous amount of help from archivists at La Salle University. When we started this research, the archives was more a person—Brother Joseph Grabenstein—than a university service. In the course of many one-day visits spread across a number of years, it seemed that we always found what we were looking for (and then some). Special thanks to Brother Joe for all the lunches at the Brothers’ House! Eventually, the university “promoted” the archives to an official capacity. Archivist Rebecca Goldman helped with several queries, but current university archivist Catherine Carey was an essential partner in the latter stages of this project, processing and making important new collections available to me, hunting up answers to specific questions, locating photographs, and checking citations. The requests were myriad, for a time unending, and no doubt tiresome, but her help was essential and unfailingly cheerful.

I’d like to thank Timothy J. Meagher, William John Shepherd, and Shane MacDonald at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America for their assistance over a number of visits; Lizette Royer for her help during a week at the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.; Wm. Kevin Cawley for his help during a week at the University of Notre Dame Archives; the professional staff who helped me at the University of Minnesota Archives in Minneapolis; and the professional staff at the National Archives (Washington, DC, and College Park, MD) and the Library of Congress.

Three journals published articles of mine that served as important background research for this study. I thank Wade E. Pickren and the anonymous readers at History of Psychology for help with my article “Great Aspirations: The Postwar American College Counseling Center.” I thank Roger L. Geiger and the anonymous readers at Perspectives on the History of Higher Education for help with “Developing the Whole Student: Edmund G. Williamson, Psychologist-Administrators and the Student Affairs Movement.” Finally, I thank Thomas F. Rzeznik, Leigh Anne McCabe, and the anonymous readers at American Catholic Studies for their help and for permission to use material here that originally appeared in “The Called, the Chosen, and the Tempted: Psychologists, the Church, and the Scandal.”

I want to thank my brothers, Paul N. McCarthy and David P. McCarthy, and my sister, Margaret R. McCarthy, the latter two also practitioners of the family ← xii | xiii → trade (at Rhodes College and Davidson College respectively), for their helpful insights and comments on chapters and an earlier draft of the manuscript. Thank you to the anonymous readers, G. Dennis O’Brien, and Molly A. Schaller for comments that made this book better. Shortcomings remain my own.

Thanks are due to the U.S. Naval Academy History Department for funding several trips to archives that were beyond easy reach as well as a conference paper presentation at the July 2012 Cheiron conference in Montreal, Canada, that made possible the first public presentation of my research on postwar college counseling centers. The Naval Academy Research Council also provided summer funding that supported this project in 2012 and 2014. However, the conclusions in this work are the author’s own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Navy, or the U.S. government.

A big thank you to all the folks at Peter Lang Publishing for the professional help in making this book possible and to my indexer Harvey L. Gable, Jr.

I want to thank my children, Rory, Mac, and Grady, for being great kids as well as keeping me balanced and motivated in mostly positive ways. Their time­scales do not yet comprehend projects extending across a decade, and they still sometimes view much of what their father does as “lame,” but I suspect each in time will come to this book and actually read it, thereby learning something more about their grandfather. When they do I hope that they find something that proves helpful on the paths to their own contributions.

The last thank you is for Lisa, the foundation on which all the foregoing acknowledgements rest. For academics at teaching institutions, researching and writing books is not what we do at our day jobs. Most of us are inclined to put helping students and colleagues before our own scholarship, which means a good deal of the time required for scholarship comes out of family. Few books get written without a partner willing to assume a heavy share of managing the family enterprise, which Lisa did at the same time that she prioritized her patients in her own demanding profession. There are few accomplishments in life that do not rest heavily on the generosity of others. Thank you. ← xiii | xiv →

← xiv | 1 →




Few of us think of our parents in historical terms, even when we are historians. Thomas N. McCarthy was not historically significant in a conventional sense. Yet early in my life, I noticed that his life had intersected—was intersecting—with many of the significant developments of his time. I accepted this fact then without trying to explain it. But when I later began teaching twentieth-century American history and discovered more connections, I began to wonder why. I sensed the answer lay in the fact that McCarthy was not an obscure person, that he had been involved in many things. As a long-time professor, counseling psychologist, and senior administrator at Philadelphia’s La Salle University and as a national pioneer in the psychological assessment of candidates for religious life and president of the American Catholic Psychological Association, he was well-known in a number of professional circles. In higher education, professional associations, and community service he habitually welcomed opportunities to get things done, which meant that he proactively engaged many of the issues of his place and time. No single life comes close to representing an era in all its complexity, but some lives are uncommonly illuminating. It occurred to me that if I looked harder at my father’s life I might learn more about the twentieth century, perhaps some things that I had not encountered in published histories.

Developing the Whole Person is McCarthy’s story. In a larger sense, it is the story of people like him, psychologists, educators, and twentieth-century Americans ← 1 | 2 → who found satisfaction in helping one another to richer lives. It is a book about generosity, helping young people pursue opportunities beyond the world of their parents, as well as about institutions, including the U.S. federal government, the Roman Catholic Church, and colleges and universities, doing the same. It is a book about how the World War II-generation beneficiaries of such assistance in turn pursued careers in higher education in which they helped the students and colleagues who followed them.

Thomas N. McCarthy’s life offers a series of points to explore important developments in American life. The first one is simply the arc of a successful life and the nature of opportunity in twentieth-century America, in particular the beneficial interplay among initiative, mentors, and institutional assistance. Americans often talk about the relationship between individual initiative and assistance as a zero-sum trade-off, where the more help that one receives from institutions, especially from government, the less individual initiative one displays. McCarthy’s life suggests a different reality. He grew up in a culture that strongly lionized initiative, hard work, and responsibility, qualities that he embodied to a high degree. But he also received help from a half-dozen or so individuals at critical junctures in his life and crucial assistance from two very powerful “helping” institutions, the post-New Deal U.S. federal government and the Roman Catholic Church. His life reminds us that Americans of his generation benefitted enormously from these culturally-encouraged personal qualities and a robust combination of help from people and institutions.

His life and career reveals a great deal about the relationship between higher education and opportunity. A chance to go to college, including an initial two years on the GI Bill, and then support from other sources for the balance of college and graduate school, made McCarthy’s professional life as a counseling and clinical psychologist possible. He then made a career of helping to provide similar opportunities to others, mainly through higher education—as a professor, college counseling center director, and vice president for student affairs. He entered higher education as a student and continued in higher education as a professor and an administrator during the thirty-year span, 1950–1980, that created the modern American university and the college experience that students have today.

Post-war colleges expanded to meet first the GI Bill and then the Baby Boom enrollment surges. Smaller colleges professionalized, and Catholic colleges eagerly sprinted the final few yards to catch up to the mainstream. In the quarter-century after 1945 American higher education actively welcomed students. Education was not free, nor was there opportunity in equal measure for all, but there was an astonishing amount of generosity on offer for those willing to make the effort that education required. Generosity permeated the entire system, from federal and ← 2 | 3 → state programs right down to the professors and counselors who mentored students. Indeed, before the late 1960s, the postwar professoriate and administrators brought a palpable exhilaration to the whole endeavor. A generation shared its good fortune with those that followed.

More specifically, Developing the Whole Person is about the emergence of the field of counseling psychology and its application in America’s colleges and universities, particularly through the creation of college counseling centers and the student affairs movement, the provision of centrally-administered, often counseling-based student services and student activities that fostered the development of the whole person.1 American higher education had a longstanding interest in the development of the whole person. Thanks to the religious roots of many schools, America’s colleges, in contrast to European universities, had always had comparatively paternalistic relationships with their students. College presidents, and later, deans of men and women, monitored and, if necessary, intervened in the lives of students to ensure that they turned out well as people. This paradigm for student-college relations was sanctioned by American courts under the in loco parentis doctrine, the idea that colleges acted in place of parents in students’ lives when those students lived on campus as part of a community provided by the college.

Proponents of the student personnel or student affairs movement that emerged among psychologists in higher education during the 1920s and 1930s urged what amounted to a new paternalism based on modern psychology in contrast to the old paternalism based on well-meaning advice backed by rules and punishments. The student affairs movement, launched by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), involved expansion and professionalization to better serve students, but, more importantly, it involved a new vision for the relationship between colleges and students. The ACPA’s 1937 Student Personnel Point of View, crafted by Teachers College professor Esther Lloyd-Jones and vigorously advocated thereafter by the University of Minnesota’s nationally-prominent dean of students Edmund G. Williamson and other psychologists, served as the founding statement of the movement:

This philosophy imposes upon educational institutions the obligation to consider the student as a whole—his intellectual capacity and achievement, his emotional make up, his physical condition, his social relationships, his vocational aptitudes and skills, his moral and religious values, his economic resources, his aesthetic appreciations. It puts emphasis, in brief, upon the development of the student as a person rather than upon his intellectual training alone.2

The manifesto urged America’s colleges and universities to consciously draw on scientifically-valid insights into student development to further the goal of ← 3 | 4 → developing the whole person, arguing that both the individual and society would be better for it. Psychologists realized that the four-year residential college provided an excellent context where some of this development occurred haphazardly, but they saw an opportunity to achieve a great deal more, especially if guided by science-based expertise that they provided. Under the leadership of George F. Zook, the American Council on Education, which represented America’s colleges and universities in Washington, convened the gathering that produced the statement and strongly supported the ACPA, recommending that member schools embrace it and implement the recommended student support services.

These efforts accelerated across American higher education after 1945 thanks to continuing coordination between Williamson and Zook, which lasted until the latter’s retirement in 1951. They convinced accreditation agencies to push colleges and universities to create a standard suite of student services that catered to an array of important student needs, an effort that received a powerful impetus when the GI Bill made accreditation a prerequisite for schools to receive federal funds.3 These services included college counseling centers where counselors used psychometric testing combined with interviewing to help students make better choices of majors, programs, and careers as well as cope with the challenges of entering adulthood. They called it counseling, but they meant science-based mentoring that helped large numbers of typical students mature into thoughtful, responsible, contented adults leading richly fulfilling lives. This point is an important one. Today, we think of counseling as being for people with a difficulty of some sort. The founders of counseling had a different expectation. They hoped to work primarily with people who had few problems in order to optimize their development as people, and they saw college as the best place to make the benefits of counseling more widely available to Americans. The student affairs paradigm thus sought to revolutionize the student life experience outside the classroom by replacing the old in loco parentis regime of supervision, rules, and punishments with an approach that consciously fostered maturational development in all areas of a student’s life. McCarthy and his postwar generation of psychologist-administrators successfully implemented much of this program.

The student affairs movement deserves attention, not merely for its success in convincing the vast majority of American colleges and universities to offer a standard suite of student support services and embrace a new paradigm for the relationship between a college and its students, but also for proposing the most radical potential reform of American higher education in the twentieth century. Although circumspect in the face of opposition from faculty and other administrators, Williamson and leading proponents argued that whole person counseling in the form of scientific mentoring—to integrate experiences from inside ← 4 | 5 → and outside the classroom—ought to be the capstone of a college education and deserved co-equal importance with traditional course-based instruction. Faculty overwhelmingly rejected this idea. But Williamson was on to something. Results from the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report showed that one of the biggest influences on overall life satisfaction associated with a college education was a close, one-on-one college mentor relationship.4 If there is a better alternative future for American higher education than massive, open, online courses (MOOCs), it is likely down a road much like the one envisioned and pioneered by Williamson, McCarthy, and their fellow postwar psychologist-administrators.

But Developing the Whole Person is also a book about the collision of the student affairs paradigm with a third paradigm for student-college relations, the student-as-adult or “student freedom” paradigm. The judicial demise of in loco parentis, beginning with court decisions in the early 1960s, and the campus unrest of the later 1960s administered the coup de grace to many things that smacked of paternalism in higher education and presented a serious challenge to the student affairs movement. McCarthy became vice president for student affairs at La Salle at just this moment, committed to further advancing the school’s commitment to the student affairs paradigm just as it came under attack from students and faculty sympathizers. Almost immediately, the larger society took a series of legal steps that strongly supported the new paradigm. The Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971) gave eighteen-year-olds the right to vote, states lowered the age of majority to eighteen, and Congress passed the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which gave college students control over access to their educational records.

Consequently, administrators, faculty, and students all stepped back some from consciously trying to optimize student development. The result was an unprecedented degree of student freedom, which made liberal individualism the philosophy for institution-student relations to a degree that had not been the case before. Long influential as ideology and practice in other realms of American life, liberal individualism, if not entirely a new arrival on America’s campuses in 1970, thus became a more potent force. Ironically, it was not right-wing ideologues and activists who demolished campus paternalism in the name of “liberty,” but Baby Boom student-activists, their faculty allies, and administrators, all in some degree disenchanted with the liberal “establishment,” the programs and practices created by mid-twentieth-century progressive educators to help larger numbers of Americans to better lives.

But student affairs administrators knew that students still would have to find their places in the world and confront the same choices and challenges involved in growing up. As two fatherless boys from marginal economic circumstances, ← 5 | 6 → Williamson and McCarthy knew that students coping on their own with limited knowledge of themselves and their possibilities were not necessarily better off. Residential colleges continued to provide the context in which students lived—dormitories, dining halls, activities, services—in short, a ready-made community, so college administrators still indirectly influenced student development. But the new view that students were adults made it harder to do more. Student affairs administrators often experienced this shift as forcing them to adopt a “see-no-evil” perspective. Administrators at Catholic colleges, such as McCarthy, could not go quite this far and thus tried to find an approach that reconciled student freedom, personal development, and traditional values, a challenging, often frustrating, but necessary and unavoidable responsibility.

The difficult economic climate in the 1970s ended the era of growth and opportunity in American higher education. But the collision of the student affairs and student freedom paradigms left important aspects of the institution-student relationship unsettled and in some ways unsatisfactory. The “student freedom” paradigm made great inroads, but it did not entirely displace the “student affairs” paradigm. The result has been an unintended fusion of two paradigms that are sometimes in tension with one another. Students have not complained much, but administrators have often been troubled by the pressure they feel to react to problems that have occurred by counter-posing supervision, rules, and punishments. And there, things have largely remained for nearly a half century.

Today, the Student Personnel Point of View, one of the most impactful ideas in the history of American higher education, is little known. Trial-and-error experiences are seen as a natural and necessary part of growing up, the path to wisdom and maturity. To my surprise, there once had been a vigorous alternative that had merit—and still does. These two important shifts in how American colleges and universities related to their students largely occurred between 1945 and 1974, and McCarthy and his psychologist-administrator colleagues were deeply engaged with both of them. Developing the Whole Person is thus a practitioner’s tale that uses one life as a touchstone to illuminate why so many mid-twentieth-century Americans looked back on their lives and the world they made with gratitude and satisfaction, and perhaps why the Baby Boomers who followed them sometimes have not.

Developing the Whole Person devotes attention to American Catholic higher education, as Catholic educators navigated their institutions through the GI Bill and Baby Boom challenges, as well as through the Second Vatican Council cultural watershed, and the subsequent and interlinked identity and financial crises of the 1970s. Catholic higher education offers an excellent vantage point to examine how psychology came to higher education. Catholic schools did not need to ← 6 | 7 → be reminded by psychologists that they were educating whole people; they had always been committed to this aim. But Catholics had initially been wary and sometimes hostile toward modern psychology. When the student affairs movement came to them through Catholic psychologist-administrators, however, they found common ground. American Catholic educators after World War II were intent that their schools be every bit as good as other American colleges, and these Catholic psychologists, the American Council on Education and accreditation agencies all pushed the Student Personnel Point of View. Ironically, achieving the American norm meant that psychologists and student affairs administrators at Catholic schools faced the same skepticism from faculty and senior administrators as at other schools, even though their own institutions were committed, at least nominally, to whole person development.


XVI, 358
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 358 pp., 7 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Tom McCarthy (Author)

Tom McCarthy is a professor in the History Department at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he teaches twentieth-century United States and world history. He holds a PhD in history from Yale University and an MBA from Columbia University. He was a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities. He is the author of Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers, and the Environment (2007). Developing the Whole Person is based on his father's life and legacy.


Title: Developing the Whole Person
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