April 13, 2015

Who Gives: Bob Mendelsohn

Spend an hour with Robert (Bob) Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Post-Doc. Cert. ’83, the longtime Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies professor and former dean, and you’ll see why he is a beloved teacher and talented psychoanalyst. Perspicacious and extroverted, he makes a quick study of those he is with and naturally holds an audience. 

Before embarking on a career in psychology, he was a rock musician—known by his stage name, Bobby Mann. He was a backup drummer for The Ronettes and played with Al Kooper, who subsequently formed Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Harvey Brooks, who went on to play with Miles Davis.

Robert (Bob) Mendelsohn, Ph.D. Post-Doc Cert. '83

Robert Mendelsohn, Ph.D., with (from left) his daughter Chelsey Miller, Ph.D. ’14, his mother-in-law Lorelle (Yarmark) Saretsky, Ph.D. ’73, Post-Doc Cert. ’77, and his wife Robin Mendelsohn, Ph.D. ’83

“That’s part of the ham in me,” Dr. Mendelsohn said with a laugh. “I get out and perform in a lecture the same way I performed in a band.”

He is sincere in his admiration for the Derner Institute and for its namesake, founding dean Gordon Derner, Ph.D., whom Mendelsohn met during his doctoral training. When Dr. Mendelsohn came to Adelphi for postdoctoral training, he again ran into Dr. Derner, who called it fate. “We struck up a friendship and in a couple of years I was hired here,” Dr. Mendelsohn said.

Dr. Derner would have turned 100 this year. Instead, chronically ill for much of his life, he passed away in 1983 from emphysema. In the memories of Dr. Mendelsohn and many others who knew him, though, he lives on. “When I talk to older alumni…I mention Gordon’s name and they get tearful,” Dr. Mendelsohn said. “He had such a tremendous impact, not only on our profession but on our school…and created such a sense of community.”

That sense of community is especially palpable to Dr. Mendelsohn, who met his wife, Robin Mendelsohn, Ph.D. ’83, at the Institute. His daughter Chelsey Miller, Ph.D. ’14, is also a graduate. Even his mother-in-law, Lorelle (Yarmark) Saretsky, Ph.D. ’73, Post-Doc Cert. ’77, is an alumna. “This is a family place,” he said, adding, “I’m very grateful to Derner.”

In April 2012, when Professor and former Associate Dean Patrick Ross, Ph.D., announced his retirement, Dr. Mendelsohn—already a loyal donor—decided to honor Dr. Ross with a scholarship endowment. Dr. Mendelsohn has been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the endowment and generous in his giving to it.

Why does he give?

I can’t quantify how many lives are being saved because our people are out in the hospitals and clinics and working with troubled people. Our students work, sweat, struggle, and they save people.

I love the teaching. I love the sense of community. I love the place.

I came here, my whole life is different. Everything changed. The people you meet, the experience and the training—you don’t get training like this anywhere else. It’s Gordon’s legacy.

This piece is from AU VU, Spring 2015 issue.
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