Education nonprofit establishes prestigious endowed chair of clinical psychology

The Lee Pesky Learning Center announced the establishment of an endowed chair of clinical psychology to honor the efforts of the center’s late co-founder, Wendy Pesky. Pictured here from left are her son Greg Pesky and husband Alan Pesky. (Photo courtesy of Chad Case Visuals)

BOISE — The Lee Pesky Learning Center announced the founding of an endowed chair of clinical psychology.

“The establishment of the Wendy Pesky Endowed Chair of Clinical Psychology marks a transformative moment for those that we serve,” said Lindy Crawford, the center’s executive director.

The endowed chair is unique for a nonprofit organization, because they have been traditionally limited to college and university settings, and considered the highest academic award that a university can bestow on a faculty member. Around $1 million was raised for the initiative.

Clinical psychologist are sometimes employed by elementary and secondary schools, but they’re more likely teaching at a university, conducting research, running a private healthcare practice or working in a hospital.

“With the endowment, it’s really going to allow us to be able to go out and recruit and retain world class talent,” said Greg Pesky, chair of the board of directors. “It helps to elevate the importance of clinical psychology and the services that the Pesky Center provides.”

The center opened in 1997 to work with individuals, families and schools to overcome learning obstacles. It offers personalized reading, writing and math intervention; psycho-educational evaluations, counseling, academic coaching and teacher training.

The endowed chair position carries the name of co-founder Wendy Pesky, and reflects her commitment to the field of education and value that she placed on therapy that provides families with information about their child’s diagnosis, symptoms and treatment methods.

“We’re always thinking about what we need to do to make sure that we maintain that high-level clinical type of services,” Greg said. “I just couldn’t be happier than the fact that my mom is honored in this way.”

The center’s namesake, Lee Pesky, had learning disabilities at a time when there was little understanding of issues like dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. His parents — Wendy and Alan — struggled to find the learning support he needed, but they managed to help him complete college.

Lee became a business owner but unexpectedly passed away at the age of 30 from a brain tumor. After his passing, they founded the learning center to honor his legacy by helping children with learning differences in a way they weren’t able to help their son.

“This place is here because of them,” Greg said. “They really channeled the toughest moment in their life — the loss of my older brother — into an incredible legacy in the Pesky Center.”

Anne Clohessy named the inaugural endowed chair

Anne Clohessy was named the inaugural Wendy Pesky Endowed Chair of Clinical Psychology. (Photo: Darren Svan/EdNews)

Anne Clohessy was named the inaugural Wendy Pesky Endowed Chair of Clinical Psychology. She previously served as the center’s clinical services director, overseeing mental health services like evaluations and counseling.

“To oversee those clinical services is still the primary role of the endowed chair position,” Clohessy said. “In the future, it may be that an endowed chair would come in with more interest in a research component or a professional development component.”

Clohessy earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Boise State University and both a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

Soft-spoken and enthusiastic, Clohessy relies on an analytical approach to solving the learning difficulties of her clients.

“I love puzzles, and that’s kind of how I approach each evaluation. Every test gives us a data point, and then we can put those pieces together and really get a better understanding of the individual — that process of putting together that picture and finding the answer,” she said.

Her career at the center began in 1999. During that time, she’s had the opportunity to maintain long-term relationships with her clients.

“After 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see students who were like kindergarten or first graders when I first met them, and now I’m doing their evaluation for transition to college. That’s really unique. I don’t think that everybody gets that chance,” she said.

Understanding how students learn

Last year, 209 children and teenagers received individualized evaluation and academic services. Students who are falling behind or not making expected academic gains are brought in by their parents.

The role of a school psychologist is to determine eligibility for special education services. The Pesky center’s clinical evaluations focus on understanding how the student learns. They assess in three areas:

  • How well students handle self-regulation — control of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. 
  • How their brains process information — memory work and problem solving.
  • How academics interact and relate — reading, writing and math. 

The center also provides coaching and counseling, evidence-based training for classroom teachers, and reading instruction for English learners. Approximately 1,100 educators were trained last year. And education programs for English language learners expanded to the Vallivue School District.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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