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Counseling Center founder leaves legacy of student mental health support

UNC CHARLOTTE Dr. Ronald B. "Sains" Simono  Conference Room
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Ronald “Sam” Simono, founding director of the UNC Charlotte Counseling Center — now the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — advanced student mental health care through professional practice and as a professor in the Department of Psychology for 37 years until his retirement in 2003. He died Dec. 6 at age 84. 

“Sam was the consummate psychologist, providing service to students, staff and campus in general and having the vision needed to create and grow CAPS into an important and necessary resource on our campus,” said Terri Rhodes, senior associate director for CAPS.  “He was a wonderful mentor to staff and students and modeled truly compassionate, student-centered, effective service. He was the foundational root to what CAPS is today and I was honored to have been able to work and learn alongside him.”  

Simono completed an undergraduate degree in biology from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. He entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Afterward, he accepted a position at Duke University where he served as a senior counselor and assistant professor. 

In 1967, Bonnie Cone, then vice chancellor for student affairs and community relations, approached Simono to leave Duke University and become the founding director of the UNC Charlotte Counseling Center. The two-person department operated out of what was then Reese Building (now King). After a few years, the center moved to the ground floor of Atkins Library and later to space in the Atkins annex. In 2017, the center relocated to the Christine F. Price Center building.

Under Simono’s leadership, the Counseling Center grew to become a comprehensive department providing high-quality psychological services to UNC Charlotte students. The Center also started a training program to prepare future mental health professionals. The doctoral internship program was accredited by the American Psychological Association in 2000.

Simono held an academic rank in the Department of Psychology throughout his tenure at UNC Charlotte. He was named a UNC Charlotte Employee of the Year in 1988. Upon retirement, Simono was awarded the rank of professor emeritus in psychology. He continued to stay active in the profession working in Charlotte at Novant as a long-standing psychologist in the cardiac rehabilitation program.  

Today, CAPS continues to build on the mental health support foundation Simono established in 1967.  With its staff of psychologists and social workers and as well as graduate assistants in psychology and social work, doctoral interns and postdoctoral fellows in psychology, CAPS continues to grow and adapt to meet the diverse counseling and mental health needs of the University’s nearly 30,000 students. 

For more information, including about memorial donations, please visit James Funeral Home.

Photo above: Ronald “Sam” Simono, third from left, with current and former CAPS staff in the Price Center in 2018 for a dedication of a conference room honoring his contributions to UNC Charlotte. They are Susan Havanek, David Spano, Karen Simono, Rebecca MacNair-Semands, Terri Rhodes.