Center City, Minn. (September 19, 2022) – Tim Sheehan, PhD, a longtime clinical leader and mentor who guided the transformation of Hazelden's pioneering addiction counselor training program into an accredited graduate school, has died. Sheehan, who also served as the graduate school's first dean, chief academic officer and provost, and later a board member—and who supported the school with his philanthropy as well—passed away on September 16, 2022, surrounded by his wife Mary and his daughters Erin and Maureen. He was 72.
"Dr. Sheehan set the ball in motion for everything we do at our Graduate School today, and his legacy will live on for generations in therapeutic spaces around the world," said Kevin Doyle, EdD, the current president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, the longest continuous provider of addiction counselor education. The school, whose alumni are forces of healing and hope across the globe, is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation's largest nonprofit system of addiction treatment, mental health care, recovery resources and related prevention and education services.
"We were fortunate to help bring forward the profession of counseling years ago and then to have a visionary like Dr. Sheehan, who saw the potential in creating a graduate school that could tap into Hazelden Betty Ford's access to teaching resources and real-world clinical opportunities for students," added Joseph Lee, MD, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. "As we celebrate the life of this honorable leader and pioneer, our hearts are with Dr. Sheehan's loving partner of 50+ years, Mary, and their two daughters and grandchildren. They can be incredibly proud of the tremendous impact he made on Hazelden Betty Ford, our patients and students, and the global practice of addiction care."
Sheehan began his career with the Hazelden Foundation in 1982 as a psychologist providing direct care. He went on to lead programs, departments and sites before moving into executive roles, including vice president of research and education. In that position, he worked tirelessly to create a master's degree curriculum, obtain the necessary approvals to operate, and achieve accreditation as an institution of higher learning—transforming Hazelden's influential counselor training program, which had begun in 1963, into the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies in 1999. After Hazelden merged with the Betty Ford Center in 2014 to form the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the school changed its name to the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.
"Tim almost single-handedly stood up for the graduate school during a period of whipsaw changes in leadership at Hazelden in the early 2000s," said William C. Moyers, vice president of public affairs and community relations at Hazelden Betty Ford. "As a result, he made sure that this organization did not waver in its commitment to educate the next generations of addiction treatment professionals. But of course there was so much more to Tim than his academic and clinical acumen – his infectious laugh was part of his wry and dry sense of humor that constantly reminded all of us not to take ourselves too seriously."
During his 36-year career with the organization, Sheehan advocated for recovery and spoke about addiction, counseling and education all over the world, from the set of the Oprah Winfrey Show to Cape Town, South Africa, to the House of Lords and the House of Commons in Westminster, England.
During his recent retirement years, Sheehan served on the graduate school's Board of Governors. He and Mary had four grandchildren—whom he referred to as the light of his life—and also helped fund multiple scholarships for students, including students of color, and established a donor fund to strengthen counselors' professional identity.
A celebration of life will be held Friday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Minn. Sheehan's family suggest donations be made to the Tim Sheehan Unlocking Tomorrow Scholarship Fund at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, PO Box 64348, St. Paul, MN 55164, or at give.hazeldenbettyford.org. The fund will help students who face financial barriers.
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.