Laughter, accolades highlight farewell party for Harry Daniels

More than 70 well-wishers packed the Norman Hall Terrace Room recently to say farewell to Harry Daniels, a popular counselor education professor whose engaging nature is rivaled only by his soft demeanor.

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Harry Daniels (center) enjoys a moment while being roasted during his retirement party held in the Terrace Room.

After devoting 49 years of his life to education – including 19 years as a teaching professor, department head and mentor to many doctoral students at the UF College of Education – Daniels is retiring.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity to work with students that look to me for guidance and direction, Daniels said before Thursday’s party, where he was lovingly “roasted” by several colleagues. “Some of them have been brilliant, but I’ve always believed that I’d know when it’s time to retire. Now that I’m 71 years old, that time is here.

“Counselor education is an intense profession, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he added. “I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great friends, a loving family and wonderful colleagues.”

Among those blessings is Paul Sindelar, who took a few jabs at Daniels’ golf game, recalling the different nicknames his longtime friend had earned during their Sunday outings at local courses.

“He was quite a slicer,” and more often than not, his ball would end up on the other side of a fence along the fairway,” Sindelar said as Daniels sat nearby, hiding his face in his hands. “We started calling him Chain Link.”

Daniels also bore the name “Hotel Harry Daniels” – a reference to the Doubletree Inn — after one of his shots ricocheted off two trees in a wooded area, where he apparently spent a great deal of time.

Aside from the ribbing, virtually everyone who spoke of Daniels described him as a man who has remained as dedicated to his family as he has his profession.

“Above all, he’s a devoted husband, a doting father and a completely enamored grandfather,” said Special Ed. Professor Holly Lane, referring to Diane, Daniels’ wife of 48 years; their two married daughters and a baby grandson.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northern Iowa, Daniels received his Ph.D. in counselor education from the University of Iowa in 1978. He taught history and other subjects in public schools for several years, and came to UF in 1996 to head the Counselor Education department.

After 11 years in that capacity, Daniels returned to the classroom, but went on to serve as the director of the COE’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education.

During his tenure as chair, UF’s Counselor Ed. program ranked among the top five programs nationally in its specialty every year in the U.S. News and World Report’s ‘s annual survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools. The program held the top spot in the 1997 rankings, and continues to receive high rankings.

But there’s no way Daniels’ unassuming nature allows him to take credit for the program’s success.

“I came in here with a great group of colleagues,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s about our program.”

Perhaps Counselor Ed. program director Ellen Amatea said it best in a written farewell message about the soft-spoken Daniels.

“Your good humor, patience and willingness to listen to us will be missed,” Amatea wrote. “Not only have you been a very inspiring and encouraging teacher and leader, you have been a staunch advocate for the counseling profession and for our counselor preparation program.

“Thank you for all you have contributed to our Counselor Education program,” she added. “We will miss you.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-3449.


Next HDOSE director has priorities in mind for school

David Miller doesn’t plan to make immediate changes when he takes over as director of the COE’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies, but the longtime COE professor of research and evaluation methods has a few priorities he’d like to set.

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David Miller

“HDOSE has some great people, so I’d really like to see us increase the quantity and quality of our research productivity and scholarship,” said Miller, who in late May will replace retiring counselor education Professor Harry Daniels, who has served as school director since May of 2012.

Miller also would like to take on the ambitious if not daunting task of adding faculty.

“The number of our tenured tracks has fallen the past few years, partly through attrition but mainly because of budget cuts,” he said. “We’ve been doing more with less, so it wouldn’t hurt to look for ways to add quality people.”

Quality is an operative word for Miller, who embraces the university’s Preeminence initiative and in 2011 began serving as director of UF’s Quality Enhancement Plan, a requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

As a QEP team member, Miller has been directing a campuswide initiative called “Learning Without Borders: Internationalizing the Gator Nation” that seeks to enhance the learning environment for undergraduate students by increasing awareness of the university’s global nature. The project calls for curricular enhancement, faculty training, a speaker program and a new international scholar program.

Miller looks to parlay that experience into his new role as director of HDOSE, which he describes as a “cohesive section of great faculty members” comprising several programs, including Counselor Education, Educational Leadership, Higher Education Administration, Student Personnel in Higher Education, Research and Evaluation Methodology and Educational Psychology.

“I see my position as being more administrative than academic,” Miller said. “I hope we can continue moving forward as a single unit.”

Miller also is director of the COE’s Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPE), which was established to support grant funding in the social sciences by providing expertise in evaluation, assessment and research design for scholars across the UF campus.

A UF education faculty member since 1998, he served for seven years as chairman of education psychology. His research interests include large-scale assessment and psychometrics (the science of measuring mental capacities and processes).

Miller has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in educational research and evaluation, and a bachelor’s degree in math and psychology, all from the University of California, Los Angeles.

David Miller,; 352-273-4306
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-3449.

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Counselor ed study links life stressors to students’ reading scores


From left: Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, Dia Harden, a 2010 doctoral graduate (who participated in UF’s original “geo-demographic” study), and Eric Thompson, who received his doctorate this summer. (File photo)

As researchers across the country continue the search for early indicators of academic failure and dropouts, University of Florida education researchers are paying particularly close attention to warning signs predicting reading test scores.

Eric Thompson, a summer doctoral graduate in counselor education at UF’s College of Education, recently completed his dissertation research in which he dissected the causes of a reading achievement gap found among Alachua County students in third through 10th grades.

According to Thompson, the cause of low reading achievement may be rooted in how vulnerable a student has been to stressful circumstances in life, including a low socioeconomic level, minority status, and even low birth weight, which affect academic performance.

One of Thompson’s most significant findings is a striking difference in students’ achievement based on their socioeconomic status.

“Students living in low socioeconomic environments are more likely to encounter more risk factors and experience fewer supports,” Thompson said.

Although this research finding may not surprise some, Thompson said, he and his co-primary investigator Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, were able to uncover and describe exactly why such performance gaps occur. 

Their studies showed that the least affluent students scored about 300 points less than their more affluent peers on the FCAT reading exam. Thompson also discovered that most affluent groups started with very high scores in the third grade, while the least affluent students started very low and stayed low throughout their schooling. 

Low socioeconomic level was primarily determined by looking at each student’s family and community lifestyles based on spending patterns, credit card data and other related information. 

However, Thompson’s research showed that students with a low socioeconomic level have also experienced other stressful life circumstances. Compared to students with a middle- to a high-socioeconomic level, the least affluent students were born at a lower birth weight; had parents who were younger and “potentially less mature” when the students were born; had parents with a lower level of education and a higher rate of unemployment; and are currently enrolled in schools with a higher percentage of students with free-and-reduced lunch and a larger population of minority students.

“It would appear from the onset that these students are at more risk for poor academic performance than those in the more affluent group,” Thompson said.

For his doctoral research, Thompson studied students’ reading scores between 2004 and 2011 and tracked trends based on four variables: each student’s biological qualities like gestational age and ethnicity, characteristics about each student’s family including parents’ education, the student’s school demographics, and the lifestyles of those in the student’s community. Thompson calls this the “individual-family-school-community model.”

“You have growth and maturation in the biological domain, including genetics and personality, and the social domain, which includes family, school, community,” Thompson said. “Within this intersection, you have risk and protective factors that relate to stress. The cumulative effect of stressors like poverty, family life and peer stress accumulates through time and can inhibit learning.”

The study also showed that not only did these individual, family, school and community characteristics differ among socioeconomic groups, but their influence on academic risk also differed. For example, minority status and the presence of minority students in their school did not affect affluent students’ performance. Thompson said that students living in a low-socioeconomic environment may receive fewer social and academic supports.

Thompson’s recent research is a follow-up of a 2010 “geo-demographics” study by a UF team that documented a profound correlation between home location, family lifestyles and students’ achievement on state standardized tests.

“While school improvement and teaching quality are vital, we are demonstrating that the most important factor in student learning may be the children’s lifestyle and the early learning opportunities they receive at home,” Daniels said.

Thompson and Daniels hope their findings shed light on the increasing need to tailor classroom and counseling activities so each student’s individual needs are being met.

“It would be irresponsible to treat every child the exact same way because every student comes from a different background and experience,” Thompson said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we help students develop a lifestyle conducive to academic success? How can we adjust the delivery of education to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds?’”

SOURCE: Eric Thompson, doctoral graduate in counselor education from the UF College of Education, 352-328-9571,
SOURCE: Harry Daniels, professor of counselor education at the UF College of Education, 352-273-4321,
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137,