Donald Ray Atkinson, PhD

Date of Birth

February 10, 1940

Date of Death

January 11, 2008

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Donald Ray Atkinson, Ph.D., passed away on January 11, 2008 at home after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Don was born on February 10, 1940 in Union City, Indiana to Ernest and Onda Atkinson. Don spent most of his childhood years in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He revisited Baraboo throughout his adult life, caring for his parents and visiting close friends. Recently, Don completed a book about Baraboo entitled, “Baraboo, A Selected History.”
Don graduated from Baraboo High School in 1958, after which he served in the Navy for two years. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Wisconsin State College, La Crosse in 1964, where he was a member of the Phi Sigma Epsilon Fraternity and was awarded a varsity letter in gymnastics. He earned a masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1966, and earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1970. He worked as a high school math teacher and guidance counselor before being hired in 1972 by the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Professor of Counseling Psychology in the Graduate School of Education. Don served as Assistant Dean of the Department of Education from 1975 to 1979, and he was the Director of Training for the Counseling Psychology Program from 1979 until 1989, when he stepped down because of his dedication to teaching, mentoring, and conducting research. He was given the title Professor Emeritus when he retired from UCSB in 2002.
Don was a pioneer in the area of multicultural counseling psychology. He pursued scholarship in multicultural counseling psychology before it was mandatory or fashionable, and he mentored a large number of doctoral students from underrepresented groups into the field of counseling psychology. His students were his greatest pride in his life’s work. Far beyond his individual accomplishments, which were many, Don viewed his own success through the achievements of his students.
Don is the author of “Counseling American Minorities,” now in its sixth edition and considered a classic in the field, “Counseling Diverse Populations,” now in its third edition, and “Counseling Across the Lifespan.” He published over 100 journal articles.
Don’s notable and numerous contributions in the field of multicultural counseling garnered considerable professional recognition, including Fellow status in the American Psychological Association (1990), the University of Wisconsin, Madison Alumni Achievement Award (1993), the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues Distinguished Career Contributions to Research Award (2001), an APA Presidential Citation and recognition as an honored Elder at the National Multicultural Conference and Summit (2005). Also in 2005, he received the Leona Tyler Award, the highest form of recognition by the Society of Counseling Psychology for his “fearless dedication” and devotion to the field of multicultural counseling.
Don lived a full and active life. He thrived in the outdoors and participated in canoeing, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Don enjoyed these activities at the home he designed and built in Ashland, Oregon, a special place he loved to share with friends, family, and former students. Even during his illness, he was constantly tackling home renovation projects and building things, most recently a tree house for his granddaughters, nieces, and nephews (complete with a bunk bed and window seat!). His interests also included the Shakespeare Festival and the Britt Music Festival in Ashland.
Don believed in the importance of family, a value he demonstrated in his commitments and connections to family members. He raised two sons, one seriously developmentally disabled, as a single father. He had a close bond with his surviving son, Bob, with whom he spoke daily. He cared for his mother-in-law during an extended Alzheimer’s illness. His loving relationship with Carol, his wife of 17 years, was an inspiration to others. His granddaughters were his pride and joy, and he took great pleasure in encouraging their talents of gymnastics and piano and traveling with them to the Grand Canyon, Oregon, and southern California.
During his extended illness, Don’s determination and courage served as an inspiration to family and friends. The family offers special thanks to Dr. Newman and the Sansum Santa Barbara oncology nurses for the individual care and respect they showed Don throughout his illness. They would also like to express appreciation to Dr. Ponce, Dr. Dunn, and Hospice nurses and support staff.
Don is survived by his wife, Carol Atkinson, son Robert K. Atkinson, daughter-in-law, Laura Atkinson, granddaughters Allyson Atkinson and Conor Ann Atkinson, and nieces, nephews, friends, former students, and colleagues. He was preceded in death by his son, James Atkinson, and his brother, Fredrick Atkinson.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday January 26 at 10:30am in the Chapel of the Santa Barbara Cemetery (901 Channel Drive). Donations may be made to the Donald Atkinson Diversity Enhancement Fund/UCSB Foundation (805-893-5994), the Jessie Hopkins Hinchee Foundation (805-967-7777), or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (, or the Baraboo Community Scholarship Corporation (608-355-5226).


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