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Founder and longtime chair of the counseling department remembered

Harold Munson, Founder and Chair of the Counseling Department, Remembered

Harold L. Munson, EdD, a professor emeritus who established the counseling programs at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and served as chair for 26 years, died in February. Munson, who was 94, was a long-standing faculty member in counseling who taught for nearly four decades and served under all five deans since the School was established in 1958.

Munson made notable and long-lasting impacts on the field of career development. In the 1980s, when people often referred to career development as an add-on, Munson talked about integrating it into the classroom every day. He developed a model around the approach that ‘school is work,’ rather than two separate entities. So instead of teaching students about work, he believed that everyone—teachers, counselors, and educators—should take responsibility to teach kids to work.

“Schools can establish standards and practices to develop and evaluate good worker traits, behaviors, values and attitudes in young people,” Munson wrote in a Speaking Out essay that published in the March 18, 1997 Democrat and Chronicle. “Work is a part of everyday life. Learning to work is a developmental, experiential, evolutionary process.”

His idea that classrooms should become a microcosm of work was eventually embraced and adopted by New York State. Today, schools across the state continue to teach and develop workplace attitudes and skills as part of the State’s mandated Career Development and Occupational Studies (C-DOS) learning standards.

“Harold was way ahead of his time,” says Warner School Professor Bonnie Rubenstein, who was one of Munson’s doctoral students in the 1980s. “He was a trailblazer in career development. His philosophy was that we should take class activities and show kids that what they are doing in school is relevant to the outside world.”

Most of what Rubenstein learned first-hand about career development in Munson’s lectures continues to be taught to Warner students today in her own class lectures.

“Students often contacted Harold to meet with him after my lectures,” reflects Rubenstein, “and, like myself, they’ve always been inspired by his work.

Munson, originally from Windham, N.Y. where he was raised on his family’s cattle farm in the Catskill Mountains, served as a combat air crewman in the U.S. Navy. A strong draw to education and history eventually led him to Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., where he began dating Evelyn, his wife of 68 years. In the ensuing years, he received his master’s in education from The State University of New York at Albany and his doctorate in guidance and counseling from New York University.

Throughout those years, Munson held a handful of teaching and counseling jobs before settling in at the University of Rochester in 1959. During his tenure here, Munson secured more than $1.5 million in sponsored research activities and published numerous articles, bibliographies and books, including two textbooks. And, although Munson retired from Warner in 1985, he continued to teach in some capacity until his late 70s.

His knowledge, vision, and enthusiasm inspired countless students and colleagues, including Rubenstein, who says that he never really let students go.

“Harold supported us both professionally and personally,” she adds, “and he continued to support his students beyond their graduate study and commencement. Once you were his student, he was always there for you, and he continued to be until his death.”

He is further remembered for developing the counseling programs’ high standards recognized by school districts and community agencies. Each year at commencement, an award named in honor of Munson is presented to two graduate students who reflect the mission and objectives of the counseling program at Warner.

Munson is survived by his two sons and six grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by the Warner School community and those who were fortunate to have been his colleagues and students.

The family has requested that any donations in Munson’s memory be made to the “Warner School of Education Harold Munson Scholarship Fund.” Checks, made payable to the Warner School of Education with reference to the Harold Munson Scholarship Fund in the memo, can be sent to the University of Rochester, Office of Gift and Donor Records, Attn: Gift and Donor Services, 300 East River Road, P.O. Box 270032, Rochester, NY 14627.