Ena Vazquez-Nuttall: 1937-2011

We remember an inspiring leader, multicultural psychology pioneer, dedicated bilingual school psychologist and advocate for social justice

By Chieh Li, David Shriberg, Karin Lifter, Jessica Hoffman, Louis Kruger, William Sanchez, Emanuel Mason, and Y. Barry Chung, PhD

Dr. Ena Vazquez-Nuttall: 1937-2011On October 20, 2011, the school psychology community was saddened by the loss of a dear colleague, nurturing mentor, inspiring leader, and torch of multicultural school psychology—Dr. Ena Vazquez-Nuttall, who died after a long illness. Ena dedicated her entire professional life to school psychology.

Educational background

Born and raised in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Ena received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and her master’s degree in psychology from Radcliffe College. She later received her Ed.D. in Counseling and School Psychology from Boston University.

Professional accomplishments

Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall’s professional activities and accomplishments are numerous. As a professor, she founded the first doctoral program in school psychology in Massachusetts, at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the second one at Northeastern University in Boston. Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall provided leadership in obtaining NASP and APA accreditation of both programs. She directed the school psychology programs for many years and then the Dean of Graduate Studies, a position she held for 10 years in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. Later she served as the Assistant Dean of Multicultural Education, before retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2009.

During Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall’s 20 years at Northeastern University, she tirelessly championed the importance of cultural diversity, long before it was the norm to do so. Today, we take for granted that psychologists must understand culture to be effective service providers. However, when Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall published her first journal article on the relationship between culture and children’s development in 1970, this notion was not widely accepted. In addition to her contributions to scholarship and national and international contributions to the profession of psychology, she personally recruited several faculty and dozens of graduate students from underrepresented minority backgrounds to Northeastern. Above all else, Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall was a warm and caring person who spent countless hours mentoring graduate students, junior colleagues, and psychologists. Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall engaged in meaningful service across national organizations including APA, NASP, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, and her distinguished contributions were recognized with multiple awards. Working in an era often characterized by tensions between APA and NASP, she encouraged and modeled active participation in both organizations. She was on the NASP program review board for many years and received a NASP Presidential Award in 1990 for her work on NASP’s Accreditation Committee. Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall also received a NASP award for Dedicated Service and Outstanding Leadership to the NASP Children Fund in 1995.

Within APA, Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall served on the Children, Youth and Families Committee from 1991-1994, the Committee on Accreditation from 1998-2004, and chaired the Training and Education Group of the Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training in Psychology (CEMRRAT)from 1994-1996. She was a Fellow of APA’s Division 16 and served as the Division’s treasurer from 1995-1998. Dr. Vazquez- Nuttall received an APA Presidential Citation for her service to APA in 2005.

Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall served as the only psychologist on the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine committee on Institutional and Policy Level Strategies for Increasing the Diversity of the U.S. Health Care Industry. The committee produced the report, In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, which was released in February 2004. Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall was honored as one of four Distinguished Latino Psychologists by the National Latino Psychological Association at their annual meeting November 2004.

At the state level, Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall served as the first vice president of the Massachusetts School Psychology Association (1970-74 and 1990-91) and served on the Massachusetts Board of Registration from 1988-1993. A winner of the “Outstanding School Psychology Trainer” award in 1986, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts School Psychology Association in 2004.

Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall published numerous journal articles and book chapters on multicultural issues. Among her notable publications, she was one of the coauthors of the influential book Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Individual and Organizational Development (with Derald Wing Sue, Robert T. Carter, J. Manuel Casas, Nadya A. Fouad, Allen E. Ivey, Margaret Jensen, Teresa LaFromboise, Jeanne E. Manese, & Joseph G. Ponterotto , 1998). The guidelines developed in the book have had a significant impact on APA policies and practice. Based on her lifelong research and passion for clinical work with young children, Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall was the lead editor of the book Assessing and Screening Preschoolers: Psychological and Educational Dimensions (edited with her former doctoral students Drs. Ivonne Romero & Joanne Kalesnik, 1992, 1999).

Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall also served on several journal editorial boards, including School Psychology Quarterly, School Psychology Review, American Journal of Counseling and Development, Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision, and Journal of Applied School Psychology. Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall was the principal or co-principal investigator on numerous grants. She worked tirelessly to secure financial support for students, especially students from multicultural backgrounds, to pursue study in school psychology. She won many federal training grants in this process. Within these activities, she heartily mentored new faculty members and helped secure positions for early career scholars, generously sharing her mission, enthusiasm, and expertise.

Believe it or not, this is only a partial summary of her service and scholarship to the field! As impressive as this service and leadership was, to know Dr. Vazquez- Nuttall was to know an extremely caring and nurturing individual who was a true advocate for making the world a better place for children and families. As a bilingual school psychologist, Ena was passionate about multicultural and social justice issues for children who are bilingual. A lifelong learner, no one got more out of professional conferences than Ena as she managed both to connect with lifelong friends and to take copious notes at presentations of interest from the start to finish of each conference day. She also updated her training through a clinical neuropsychology sabbatical at Harvard Medical School in 2004 and through consultation work with public schools right up until her retirement.


Throughout her entire career, Ena touched many people’s lives with her warm heart and passion for social justice. She mentored countless young professionals and profoundly influenced many multiculturally minded leaders in school psychology at the regional, state, national and international levels. At her retirement party in 2009, her longtime colleague and friend, Dr. William Sanchez, spoke about Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall’s leadership in supporting diversity in all forms and her extraordinary life. Speaking specifically of the role of faith in her worldview, Dr. Sanchez stated, “Faith is difficult to talk about and yet, Professor Nuttall has embodied, in her work and relationships, that nature of faith that St. Paul commented on centuries ago: ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.’ Anyone working with Ena has been touched by that faith: her intense belief in people and their ability to transform. Students, faculty, staff, clients, friends, all touched by this endless reservoir that always spoke to change: She believes in people: ‘the evidence of things not seen.’ So prophetic and so powerful a belief: We can work to make things better for all.”


Dr. Ena-Vazquez-Nuttall: A Puerto Rican woman, full professor, associate dean, researcher, author, teacher, clinician, advocate, public servant, and lifelong contributor to school psychology, and also a wife, mother, and grandmother. She was the wife of the late Dr. Ronald L. Nuttall, and loving mother of Key Nuttall and his wife Libby and Kim H. Nuttall and her husband Chris Woolf. She is also survived by her grandchildren Aidan, Conor and Keegan Nuttall and her sister Angala Cesani of Puerto Rico. Her family held a memorial service for Ena in Eaton & Mackay Funeral Home, Newton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Vazquez-Nuttall leaves behind a legion of school psychologists inspired by her work, her leadership, her integrity, and her humanity. There was no one like her and her legacy will endure for a long time. To honor her dedication to promoting multiculturalism in our field, the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University has established Ena Vazquez- Nuttall Award to students for multicultural efforts. In lieu of flowers a donation could be sent to the Bouve` College of Health Sciences c/o Northeastern University,360 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA 02115, directed to the award in Dr. Ena Vazquez- Nuttall’s name.


Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Tom Fagan for his guidance in preparing this obituary.