As she prepares to graduate from Southern for the fourth time in her life, Linda Philie, ’64, M.A. ’84, 6th Yr. ’88, post-master’s certificate ’22, looks back over the years and says, “Southern was there for me every step of the way.”
Philie this month receives her post-master’s certificate in clinical mental health counseling, after earning a bachelor’s in elementary education and history from Southern in 1964, a master’s in counseling and school psychology in 1984, and a 6th year certificate in counseling and school psychology in 1988. She also completed a master’s in government and international relations at Clark University in 1972.
“It has been an extraordinary journey,” Philie says, “and I am so grateful to Southern for being there for me and my family at every step along the way.”
Her journey began in 1960, when she first arrived on campus as an 18-year-old freshman. Growing up in Bridgeport and Shelton as the oldest of nine children, Philie says her parents didn’t have much money but had high expectations for her as she entered college. She had good grades and lived in off-campus housing as a freshman, but she was always worried about her family.
“I could have gotten lost in the shuffle,” she says, but members of the staff and faculty took a real interest in her and encouraged her to move onto campus and get involved in student activities.
“I was allowed to move into a dorm and got involved in campus life,” she says. She joined student government and a sorority, and she received encouragement and financial help, making it possible for her to get involved.
As a junior, she student-taught in New Haven and loved it. Always interested in international affairs, she received an offer to enter a doctoral program in international relations at Clark University, which she attended for one year before leaving because her mother became ill. “I went home to help with the family,” she explains.
Two years later, as a sixth-grade teacher she decided to get certified to teach high school, so came back to Southern. She met her husband, Bill, in one of her classes, and he eventually became a residence hall director in Neff Hall. “We lived there for 12 years and had our four children while living there,” Philie says. “Our kids went to school in New Haven. The best thing about those 12 years in the dorm was the residential students helping with the kids. The students were so nice to us – we’ve kept in touch with some of them.”
While living in Neff Hall, Philie started taking some classes in counseling and completed the master’s in counseling in 1984. She was president of the SCSU Alumni Association in 1975 and served on the board for a few years.
She and her family moved to Bethany while the children were young, and her husband became involved in that community. Philie worked as a counselor for grades 6-8 at Shelton Intermediate School from 1986 until retiring in 2014.
In 2000, her husband died, and she says, “The community embraced us. The Southern community surrounded us with their love. If Southern hadn’t been there for us, I don’t know what I would have done.” A scholarship in memory of Bill – the William Philie Scholarship — was set up at Southern.
“We’re all stronger as a result” of getting through the loss of Bill, she says.
After retiring from her counseling job in 2014, Philie “started missing the kids,” so she began teaching night school – adult education courses — in Shelton and Stratford. She has also been a tutor for homebound students at Amity High School. When she learned about Southern’s new post-master’s certificate program in clinical mental health counseling, she decided to go for it.
“The program has been fun,” Philie says, explaining that she has learned about diagnosing and treating children with mental health issues. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the field,” she says. “The faculty is very supportive. The whole department is amazing. I’ve learned from them about diversity and being an advocate.”
Louisa Foss-Kelly, professor of clinical mental health counseling, who was Philie’s advisor in the program, says “Linda has been a true pleasure to have as a student. One of the remarkable things about Linda is how she invested so much into her courses, with a level of enthusiasm and excitement that is rare. When she began her internship in professional counseling, she was excited to take on new roles and responsibilities and the challenges she knew they would entail. Her passion for counseling was contagious and her positive approach to living was inspiring. A remarkable quality about Linda is that she so frequently gave me updates on her family and friends and their joys and challenges. Linda naturally shared her life with others in so many ways – with clients, classmates, professors and I assume, everyone she encountered.”
Philie recently wrapped up her year-long internship at the Parent Child Resource Center in Derby, Conn., where she has worked with children and teens. “I like to play with the kids,” she says, adding that the children she has seen in her internship have been struggling with issues like ADHD and depression. “There’s a waiting list of 90 kids waiting for services,” she says. “Because of the pandemic the need for services is greater now.”
Eventually, Philie would like to find a position as a child therapist. She has to pass a licensing exam in the fall and will probably apply for jobs after that, she says.
Coming back to the Southern campus after so many years, Philie is “floored” to see how the campus has changed. “I’m grateful for all the help I’ve received,” she says again. “I’m thankful for all the people who reached out to me and encouraged me.”