Alumni Spotlights


David Venarde ’83

Class of 1983
"Most importantly, it helped me to value and appreciate silence and reflection, and I think it made me a better listener, which isn’t a bad thing in my line of work."
David Venarde ’83 entered WFS in the ninth grade, and graduated in the spring of 1983 (with then Senator, now President Joseph Biden as graduation speaker!). In his senior year, David served as editor of The Whittier Miscellany, the school newspaper. He played soccer and tennis throughout his four years at Friends, and was involved in a number of other activities, including the MLK Day planning committee and the humans concerns committee. During the summer between his junior and senior years he spent the summer in Tokyo, Japan, living with a host family as a Japan-U.S. Senate scholar. After graduating from Friends, David attended Yale University, graduating in 1987 with a degree in history. After six years of confusion (which included a number of jobs), he entered graduate school, finishing his doctorate in psychology from Rutgers University in 1993. David worked for over ten years in college mental health, mainly at New York University, and now runs his own full-time clinical practice in New York City. He has been married to his wife Sarah for 24 years, and has two children, Emma (20) and Thomas (18). David enjoys running, hiking, and learning about Roman aqueducts. During the pandemic David tapped his trees (outside NYC) and made maple syrup.

What advice would you give someone who aspires to practice as a clinical psychologist? 
First of all, we need more people in the field of mental health care. The pandemic has strained already limited resources, and there’s a chance to make an impact and truly help people in need. And there are many paths to working in the field. While psychology is one of them, social work and psychiatry are two other well-established routes, and most states now offer licensing for mental health counselors as well. I was fortunate to attend an excellent graduate program, and as part of that program I worked in a number of settings, which helped me clarify my professional path. I typically encourage people interested in the field to speak with as many professionals as possible and get a range of experience in the field before or during graduate training. 

You earned a certificate from Yale in Climate Change and Health. What are some of your takeaways from that course? 
This was one of the highlights of remote, pandemic learning. I learned a huge amount not only from the teachers but also from the other students (physicians, students, other mental health professionals, activists), most of whom work more directly at the intersection of climate change and health. Two key takeaways: 1) the health impacts are felt disproportionately by the more vulnerable (socio-economically, politically) people and nations on our planet; and 2) we will all experience health impacts (secondary to forest fires, rising temperatures, drought, among other causes) from climate change, even if we are not feeling them yet. 

How has life changed for you living and working in New York City during the pandemic? 
I’ve been lucky that my work (which is talk therapy with adults) has translated well to the screen, much better than I would have imagined. My colleagues and I have been able to continue our work throughout the pandemic, even when in-person work was not an option at all, and we have found the work quite effective. Pros: more flexibility in scheduling, less commuting for therapists and clients alike; cons: much increased screen time, missing the experience of being with someone in person! 

What are your favorite memories of serving as editor of The Whittier Miscellany? 
The late nights before deadline, as we scrambled to get the pieces sent to the printers (this is all pre-computer), and the late nights when we had the “galleys,” which we would cut and paste using a light table to create the layout. Old school. Many fellow students joined for those late nights, though Terry Maguire, the Whittier advisor, was always there and a true joy to work with. 

In what ways has your Quaker education shaped you? 
Most importantly, it helped me to value and appreciate silence and reflection, and I think it made me a better listener, which isn’t a bad thing in my line of work.
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