Adler University lost two of our cofounders, Harold Mosak and Bernard Shulman, in 2018. But their legacy lives on through our alumni, our students, and our institution’s commitment to our Adlerian mission.
Harold Mosak and Bernard Shulman met in the 1940s, through Rudolf Dreikurs, the influential Viennese psychiatrist and educator who immigrated to Chicago. Dreikurs was a student and colleague of Alfred Adler’s, the first community psychologist.
Dreikurs mentored Mosak, a graduate of the University of Chicago, and also taught Shulman. After graduating from the Chicago Medical School, now the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Shulman joined Dreikurs’ practice. They invited Dr. Mosak to join them in clinical work and teaching to extend Alfred Adler’s ideas.
In 1952, Shulman, Dreikurs, and Mosak founded the Alfred Adler Institute, which in 2015 became Adler University. “We attempted to emulate what Adler achieved in Vienna . . . not only [in Chicago and] the United States, but in Canada, Israel, Brazil, Australia, India, and Greece,” Shulman said in a 1998 interview.
Both Shulman and Mosak were prolific authors on the topic of Adlerian psychology, publishing about 300 books and articles between them. They were both educators and clinicians for many years. Mosak worked with clients and mentored students until retiring in 2015; Shulman practiced clinical psychology until seeing his last patient in 2013 on his 91st birthday.
Both died at the age of 96, leaving behind a wealth of enduring accomplishments. Those include the Harold and Birdie Mosak Library, the procurement of legacy donors, and the fact that the University now enrolls nearly 1,500 graduate students in Chicago, Vancouver, and online.
Because of Shulman and Mosak, Adler University graduates fulfill its mission to continue the pioneering work of Alfred Adler as socially responsible practitioners who engage communities and advance social justice.
Harold Mosak’s intellectual weight and impact cannot be understated. He was a cofounder of Adler University, author of influential publications like The Manual for Life Style Assessment and Primer of Adlerian Psychology, as well as an influential proponent of the Illinois Clinical Psychologist Licensing Act (proudly holding license #37).
However, for all his academic expertise, Leigh Johnson-Migalski, Psy.D. ’06, said, “Harold talked about that you needed to ignore all the psychobabble and just understand people.” Johnson-Migalski, an associate professor in Adler University’s Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology program, took several classes with Mosak and recalls observing him conduct a lifestyle assessment on a student who had early recollections related to the influence of religion in his life. “Because of Harold’s interpreting of his earliest recollection, the student got clear on his passion and where his career lay.” The student unenrolled in the school and entered the seminary, Johnson-Migalski said. “To see this very kind, compassionate interview, to get an understanding of what’s important in a very short amount of time, was riveting.”
Despite being a good listener, Mosak was far from a passive observer, according to those who knew and loved him. “He enjoyed a good debate. He felt that’s how knowledge emerges,” said Marina Bluvshtein, Ph.D. While some students were intimidated by his love of passionate sparring, she said, “He enjoyed anybody who’d be able to stay with him.”
Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., also counted Mosak as a mentor. “Harold was part of the Board of Trustees who hired me 15 years ago, and I am enormously grateful for his generous mentorship.”
“From our first conversations and tutoring that made me into an Adlerian to his later counsel about the perils and joys of leading a school to our visits after his retirement, Harold continued to advise me on becoming a better president and a better person,” Crossman said.
Sarah Hudson, Psy.D. ’13, a clinical psychologist in a private practice and adjunct faculty at Adler University, studied with Mosak and then taught alongside him. She said he pushed his students to be active listeners. “He wanted people to take in the information, think critically, and then contribute something with it to advance the theory itself,” she said.
Long after his retirement, Hudson said, she would ask Mosak if she could bring her own students to learn from him. “He’d say, ‘Absolutely,’ and I’d pile students in my car and we’d go to the nursing home,” she said.
In her final reflection paper before graduation, Johnson-Migalski wrote about how she sees the way Adlerian theory and practice work and how she found her orientation as an Adlerian practitioner. Mosak, she said, “wrote this nice quote at the end of my reflection paper: ‘Welcome home, Leigh.’ I had that cut out and framed on my wall in my office,” she said.
Mosak’s greatest contribution to Adler University, Johnson-Migalski said, starts with the mere fact that it exists but continued with the way he and Shulman tended its garden. “The school didn’t always have the resources we needed, so Harold and Bernie got legacy donors to help,” she said. “They didn’t make money on some of their books because it went to fund the school. Without Harold, without Bernie, there would be no Adler University.”
Bluvshtein, the director of the Center for Adlerian Practice and Scholarship, always marveled at Mosak’s skill as a storyteller and lecturer, filling the time effortlessly during speeches and making important information seem natural. “Every story would have a punch line, a moral. They were never irrelevant stories. A lot of times he’d want you to find it, to catch it and talk to him about it. Every story, even if it was casual, was a teaching story.”
This skill extended to the end of his life, as Mosak and Bluvshtein worked on the paper “Faith, Hope, and Love in Psychotherapy,” to be published in April in the Journal of Individual Psychology. As Mosak dictated to Bluvshtein, the door to Mosak’s nursing home room was often open, with guests popping in and Mosak interacting with each of them. Despite the disruption, he kept focus. “He was addressing the topic as if it was the most important thing and nothing else was happening,” she said.
Their last day together, shortly before Mosak died, Bluvshtein went to see him and simply listened. “His thoughts seemed very clear, very deliberate: He was talking about Torah, and biblical figures, and people who departed before him. I had a feeling that it was not him severing his ties with those living but uniting with the universe, becoming the one with what Alfred Adler one hundred years ago called cosmos. He was not debating that day. He was just delivering, on time.”
When Bernard Shulman heard Rudolf Dreikurs lecture on medical psychology during a medical school class, he immediately wanted to hear more. What was it about Dreikurs that spoke so immediately to Shulman? According to his granddaughter Jessica Shulman Brennan, Psy.D. ’13, it was the connection between the human mind and the human body. “He was curious about how the mind drives us as humans. The conjunction of the mind, the body, the context, culture, and social community was intriguing to my grandfather,” she said. “Not just focusing on the physical body but all of it as a whole.”
It was with this mindset that Shulman approached his work with clients at mental health centers, which was where Paul Fitzgerald, Psy.D. ’97, Director of Master’s Counseling Training at Adler University, met him. “I got to know Dr. Shulman when I got a job at the psychiatry inpatient unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital as a mental health worker in 1976,” said Fitzgerald.
“My impression of him was that he was always very kind, a nonthreatening mentor and teacher.”
Shulman’s view of the complete person was evident in his work with students and patients. “Dr. Shulman was very clear in teaching Adlerian concepts to us,” Fitzgerald said, adding that these concepts influenced everything Shulman did at the psychiatric unit. “People were encouraged to give each other honest feedback. Even the patients were encouraged to be honest with each other.” Fitzgerald said that Shulman treated patients with a notable amount of courtesy. “Especially when you contrasted him with other psychiatrists, he was always respectful with the patients. No matter how psychotic or depressed they might be, he treated them with dignity.”
Shulman was especially known for the way he worked with schizophrenic patients, which influenced Brennan, now a licensed clinical psychologist at Rush University Medical Center. She remembers him telling her once about one of the interventions he used with a patient who was hearing voices. “He said, ‘You don’t have to listen to them and what they’re telling you to do,’” she said. “I loved that. He didn’t try to argue with a patient to say what he was hearing was not there or it was wrong. He validated the patient’s reality in a way that made the patient feel acknowledged and validated.”
Shulman had a low-key personality that reflected his approach with patients. “His sense of humor was dry,” said Fitzgerald. “It didn’t come out very often, but he had a smile—you could tell when he was enjoying something, and it was never at anybody else’s expense.”
Judy Sutherland, M.A. ’85, Ph.D., cofounder of Adler University’s Art Therapy program in Chicago, had Shulman as her teacher when she took Counseling Psychology. She said the experience taught her not to take life so seriously. “It was his relaxed manner and his acceptance of each of us that made me feel at home and know that I was not going to be judged,” she said. He told his students, “We all need to have ‘the courage to be imperfect,’” she said.
Shulman’s time studying how societal forces can go wrong, especially through the lens of his own Jewish faith (his parents were migrants from Russia), may help explain Shulman’s emphasis on social equality. “Adler called this Gemeinschaftsgefühl, social interest or social feeling,” said Sutherland. “It is an important component of human development, maybe the most important one. It is vital for bringing peace and health to our lives and for living in a democracy at its best.”
Shulman sat on the school’s Board of Trustees from 1963 to 2008 and was board chair from 2000 to 2005. “He saw his job as quality assurance more than anything else,” Fitzgerald said. “He didn’t want to be stuck in the past, but he also wanted to be sure that we were staying true to the [Adlerian] tradition.”
“I am grateful to him for taking a chance on a much younger me, and for supporting me to become an Adlerian,” said Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D.
Crossman said that one of his proudest moments in his role at the University happened at Shulman’s retirement party from the Board of Trustees in 2008. Shulman told Trustees, staff, and faculty in attendance that he knew his “baby was in good hands” with the new generation of teachers and leaders.
“I was able to tell him, on behalf of us all, that we were all working hard to take care of his baby and to advance Adlerian practice widely, broadly, and proudly,” Crossman said. “And we continue to do so.”
Brennan remembers when she told her grandfather about her burgeoning interest in psychology after getting her undergraduate degree in elementary education. “I recall how excited and interested he was, and that felt great. I wanted to help people feel heard and supported and encouraged in their lives as my grandfather was doing for me.”
“He just made it look noble to be in the mental health field,” said Fitzgerald.