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Bob Cavanagh, staff psychologist, honored for 35 years of service at DePaul

Dr. Bob Cavanagh of University Counseling Services (UCS) celebrates his 35th year at DePaul this year, having come on board as a psychologist in 1982 in the DePaul University Community Mental Health Center, now the DePaul Family and Community Services clinic. 

Cavanagh is originally from the south side of Chicago, and completed his undergraduate work at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio before returning to Chicago to attend Loyola University. He ultimately received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Loyola.

Once he received his doctoral degree and became a licensed psychologist, Cavanagh began looking for a job. He came across a classified ad in the Chicago Tribune for a psychologist position at the DePaul University Community Mental Health Center. The person who filled the role would provide low-cost therapy for underprivileged families in the Cabrini-Green and Lathrop Homes areas, while also training and supervising DePaul students pursuing doctoral degrees in psychology. Bob applied for the position, and the rest is history.

Eventually, Cavanagh became one of two psychologists that worked specifically with DePaul University faculty, staff and students. Later, he served as director of clinical training and held that position for 22 years, and today, he serves as a staff psychologist and informal clinical supervisor and mentor to new staff professionals.

Many things have changed at DePaul since Cavanagh’s arrival, particularly the size of DePaul’s student population. However, Cavanagh says it’s not all the changes that have struck him. “I guess I've been most struck by what has, in my day-to-day experience, NOT changed: the ongoing heartfelt effort by so many to live up to a lofty mission statement that dares to emphasize, among other things, social justice, the embracing of diversity and respect for the dignity of each individual,” Cavanagh says. “It is an ongoing effort I've witnessed for 35 years, with many successes and many failures, by us all-too-human beings. But our community's effort and striving are no less inspiring to me now than they were in 1982.” 

Cavanagh says three things have kept him at DePaul throughout the years: his clients (which included children and families in his first 15 years, and then DePaul students for the past 20), his colleagues and the Vincentian mission and spirit that many employees take to heart.

Jeffrey Lanfear, director of University Counseling Services, has worked alongside Cavanagh for nearly 18 years. Lanfear notes that Cavanagh has counseled hundreds of students over the years, as well as many faculty and staff members as a psychologist in the DePaul University Community Mental Health Center.

“Dr. Cavanagh is one of the most generous and empathetic people I know,” Lanfear says. “In many ways Bob is the heart and soul of UCS: he has an extremely deep well of empathy and compassion for all students, and his kindness and understanding has made a significant difference in many students’ lives,” he says. “And not only is he all that for our students, but on the UCS team, Bob is noted for having a great sense of humor, which goes a long way toward helping the UCS team keep things in perspective,” Lanfear adds.

Peggy Burke, associate vice president for Student Affairs, has been at DePaul as long as Cavanagh has been, and says that his quiet leadership and steadfastness has been a model for her throughout the years. “Bob is DePaul at its best. He is thoughtful, kind and caring to all those members of the DePaul community when they need the most support,” Burke says. “He has put in countless hours to ensure that students have a supportive environment in which to succeed.”

Cavanagh was honored at the 2017 Distinguished Service Awards luncheon in May, along with dozens of other faculty and staff. He was one of only 19 staff members who were honored for 35 or more years of service at DePaul.