A Pioneer of Multicultural Counseling

In 1968, when Harold Cheatham began his graduate degree in counseling at Colgate University, he was offered an appointment as assistant dean of students, with the responsibility of helping an increasing number of Black male students adjust to the institutional environment. Cheatham ’61 Lib declined the offer—not knowing that he’d nevertheless embark on a long and distinguished career in the nascent discipline of multicultural counseling theory and practice, for which he was awarded the 2021 life-time achievement award by the American College Personnel Association.

What Cheatham did know was that universities recruiting large numbers of Black students in response to the onset of the civil rights movement were “plunking them into unchanged and unchanging environments, with a naïve expectation that the Black students would be uncompromisingly fitted to institutions.” That perspective became more apparent during his successive appointments as a counseling director at Case Western Reserve and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which he joined in 1974. That year, the academy had just admitted 20 Black students to its cadet corps, bringing the total number of Black cadets to 44—out of 800. “The 20 were broadly regarded as an invasion and a lot of resentment and open hostility followed,” Cheatham recalls.

Cheatham eventually spent 16 years at Penn State, leaving in 1996 as head of the department of counselor edu-cation to serve as founding dean of the College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences at Clemson. The dialogue around equity and inclusion has progressed substantially since his time on campus, but Cheatham, knowing the work isn’t done, remains focused on making impactful change. Fittingly, of the $500,000 estate gift that Cheatham and his wife, Arlene, pledged last year to support Penn State’s Office of Educational Equity, $100,000 will endow the Harold E. and V. Arlene Cheatham Lectureship in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. –SI