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Dickelle Fonda ’71

After majoring in sociology at Saint Rose, Dickelle Fonda ’71 went on to earn a master’s in clinical social work at the University of Iowa. Today she makes her home in Evanston, Illinois, where she also owns Fonda and Associates in Psychotherapy, her psychotherapy practice.

In addition to being an artist, writer, and speaker, Fonda is extremely active in social justice. She founded the NorthShore Peace and Justice Coalition, is a member of Evanston Black Lives Matter and Chicago Peace Action, and formerly chaired the board of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

What do you do in your typical day?

As a psychotherapist in private practice, working part time, I start my weekdays around 6 a.m., which is my personal time for exercise, meditation, and writing before I begin the day with clients.

During COVID, I have become a “Zooming therapist,” meeting with clients on screen or over the phone, rather than in person. After doing this work for the past 46 years, it has been an adjustment to “see” people in this way, but it has allowed my profession to continue working and has allowed people seeking therapy to be able to continue their therapeutic work.

Evenings will often find me at the local dog park with my Siberian huskies or sitting with a glass of wine in conversation with my partner, a friend, or my adult son whose business is located in the Chicago area.

How did you find your career path?

I think my career path as a therapist working with women – in particular those who have experienced trauma in their lives – found me.

I can remember myself, as a teenager, sitting on my porch listening and giving advice to local teens who were feeling sad or lost. At that time, I had no idea that the trajectory of my life would follow that direction. But, when we understand that we have all come into this world with a purpose, we hope that we can find and live in it during our lifetime. I have been fortunate to have found mine.

Many women, including myself, have experienced some form of trauma in their life, so my path to working in this area was informed by that reality and grew organically into a longtime private psychotherapy practice.

How has your Saint Rose experience helped you?

My time at Saint Rose was during the very revolutionary times of the late ’60s to early
’70s, and I was very much affected by the social justice, women’s liberation, and anti-war movements of that time. Attending what was then an all-women’s college allowed me to grow in confidence in my ability to lead and step into my own personal power, without having to compete with, or be scrutinized or shut out by, male students.

I believe that during those times, had I been on a co-ed campus, I might have been more constrained in my willingness to step out, speak up, and lead, as the presence of men in class and campus may have been intimidating (remember this was 1967, and gender roles were still evolving).

Father Richard Lucas and Sister Margaret Lawler were both radical activist professors on campus who were mentors for me at that time. The anti-war and social justice activities I engaged in while at Saint Rose set a precedent for my life path of activism, which has carried through the last 50 years of my life.

What do you do for fun?

I am an outdoors type of woman, having grown up in rural upstate New York and now living in the Midwest.

My mornings during the spring, summer, and fall begin on the beach of Lake Michigan, where I run for two miles, dance to the music of Marvin Gaye or Earth, Wind, and Fire in the sand, then take my kayak out on the water on calm days, as the sun is rising over the lake, and then finish the morning with a meditation sitting on the rocks overlooking the lake. On some warm summer days, I occasionally put on my rollerblades and skate the lakefront of Lake Michigan shores, my body remembering what it was like to be 12!

On long weekends my partner/spouse of 45 years and I travel with our three Siberian huskies to our cabin in western Wisconsin, where we hang out in the woods, read, write, canoe on the river, and just live healthy in the green! It is what I call Goddess country, and it reminds me a lot of upstate New York.

I am currently writing a book about the amazing Siberian huskies I have had the privilege of sharing our lives with over the past 25 years!

What are three important things you learned over the past year?

During this past year of negotiating life around COVID-19 I have learned the following:

  • Our way of working has to become much more flexible and life-supporting than it has been in the past. The rigidity with which many jobs have been structured has had to change and loosen up in order for people to stay healthy and safe. This has given us an opportunity to see work modes through a different lens. Going forward, we have to be more creative in order to live and work in much more physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy ways.
  • What is truly important in our lives is family and friends and the ones we truly love and care about. The accumulation of material wealth and status is far less important than whom and how we love and who loves us, as well as what we are building collectively toward a more just, sustainable, and equitable community and world.
  • That life is fragile and, no matter how many years we have had on this planet or how many years we have left, what really matters is what we do with those years so that when we come to our last days we can leave without regrets of all the things we have not said or done. If this last year has taught us anything it is that there is no time to waste, and we must live and love fully NOW!

By Irene Kim