“I joined the Navy at 17, and then went home to tell my parents,” says Dr. Mark Skrade, president of Springfield-based School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute, of his 1974 war-era decision. “I served four years, following in the footsteps of my father and paternal grandfather. At 19 years old I was in charge of a ship’s engine room. My commander asked if I would consider officer’s school. I was offered additional leadership roles and opportunties. This was a turning point in my life.”
Upon his return home, Skrade built on his military leadership skills by hitting the books, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology – the latter two awarded from the institution he now helms.
Skrade began his clinical career as a civilian psychologist at the U.S. penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. After a decade in the Kansas City area’s correctional, rehabilitation and mental health services industries, and a fleeting foray into the printing business, Skrade returned to Springfield and the Forest Institute in 1999 as the interim dean of faculty and academics.
After a year of management transition, Skrade became president of the school in 2000. He has since grown the institute to the 10th-largest higher learning institution in the Springfield area. The school, accredited by multiple national academic commissions and the American Psychological Association, employs more than 100 people locally and hosts nearly 300 master’s and doctoral-level students each semester.
Moreover, the school’s students – each with a hefty load of required internship hours – have become a vital lynchpin in the local mental health network. According to Skrade, the consolidation of private providers combined with recent cuts in public funding have drastically reduced mental health care. Locally, Forest Institute students have become part of the solution, providing 10,000 annual hours of client services.
“Through its faculty, staff, students and more than 1,500 alumni, the school has provided mental health services to tens of thousands of individuals and families in southwest Missouri, people who might otherwise not have received help,” Skrade says.
Outside his professional commitment to help others, Skrade has made service to others a life priority. He has long been a supporter of civic efforts such as Every Kid Counts; was chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on Children; and served as a Red Cross volunteer counseling survivors in post-9/11 New York City. His local philanthropic experience also includes nonprofit board of directors service as the current president-elect of Isabel’s House, as well as leadership of the development board of Springfield Catholic High School.
These days, his work life is equally busy as he wraps up a pending merger between the Forest Institute and CoxHealth’s non-profit division Burrell Behavioral Health. After several months of negotiations and several more of due diligence, the two organizations will begin a shared chapter in their long histories.
“Individuals in the region will have increased access to education and training in the provision of much-needed mental and behavioral health care services,” he says.[[In-content Ad]]