Ellen Cole, PhD

By Tasha Dorsey

Ellen Cole, PhDDr. Ellen Cole was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). She completed her undergraduate studies at Boston University where she initially majored in elementary education, one of the few fields women were encouraged to pursue at the time. It did not take long for Dr. Cole to realize she had no interest in elementary education. She soon found her passion after enrolling in her first psychology course. She was drawn to the field for many reasons, one of which was that she could learn about herself as well as other people. Dr. Cole graduated in 1962 with a B.A in psychology and thereafter, began working at a mental hospital in England where she would meet an influential mentor, Dr. Maryse Metcalfe, an Egyptian Jewish psychologist. Dr. Metcalfe, who managed a family and a successful career, served as Dr. Cole’s supervisor and later co-authored her first publication (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011).

Dr. Cole went on to pursue a master's degree in counseling from Harvard University in 1964 (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). She recalled having only one female professor at the time who tried to blend in with male professors as much as possible. It was not until reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique did Dr. Cole fully realize the effects of gender bias on women’s careers. She was also influenced by William G. Perry, a client-centered therapist, teaching at Harvard at the time. Dr. Cole completed her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Union Institute in 1976. It was here that Dr. Cole met Dr. Rita Arditti, a feminist scholar and activist. Her dedication to women’s causes would influence Dr. Cole throughout her career (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011).

Dr. Cole's interest in sexuality began with one of her first positions, founding the Counseling Center at the University of Vermont, where she became aware of her lack of training in the subject (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). Dr. Cole worked with pioneers in sexuality research and practice such as William Masters, Virginia Johnson, and Lorna Sarrel. Today, she is a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists and is a Diplomate in Sex Therapy. She has long been, and still is, interested in reproductive rights. She is a current board member of the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, headquartered in Albany, NY (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011).

Dr. Cole's research and practice have been informed by an interest in qualitative research, "passionate scholarship," and a commitment to diversity (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). As co-editor of the journal Women & Therapy, she made it a priority to incorporate diverse authors such as women of color and lesbians (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011).

Dr. Cole is currently finishing a second master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). Her capstone project focuses on the lives of women in their seventies. In addition to the project, Dr. Cole has co- developed an accompanying blog, 70 Candles, a space for women to share their experiences, insights, and thoughts as they enter the eighth decade of life. She is also co-editing with Mary Gergen Retiring but Not Shy: Feminist Psychologists Create their Post-Careers, a part of the Division 35 Book Series (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). In 2010, Dr. Cole was named Professor of Psychology Emerita at Alaska Pacific University (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011). This fall she will be teaching and possibly developing a new graduate program in Mental Health Counseling. She is married to Dr. Douglas North. They have four children and ten grand-children. She loves the outdoors and has race-walked four marathons in the past five years (E. Cole, personal communication, July 15, 2011).