After more than 17 years as a champion for mental health awareness and resources at Virginia Tech, Christopher Flynn will retire this spring.

Flynn is executive director of Mental Health Initiatives at Virginia Tech, co-leading the VT Better Together campaign for mental health with Laura Hungerford, professor and head of the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Better Together initiatives have increased awareness, fought stigma, and advocated for community involvement in mental health issues.

“Throughout his career at Virginia Tech, Chris has exemplified the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) through his service to students and his advocacy for their mental health and well-being,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “His leadership of our mental health initiatives and counseling programs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the April 16 tragedy, is a testament to his compassion for and commitment to the Virginia Tech community. I wish him all the best in his retirement and thank him for his distinguished service.”

Flynn was director of the counseling and career services center at Loyola University New Orleans for 17 years. In 2006, he came to Virginia Tech as director of the Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center. After 32 individuals lost their lives on April 16, 2007, Flynn was challenged to meet the emotional needs of students, faculty, staff, and the community.

Kay Heidbreder, university legal counsel, worked with Flynn in the aftermath of April 16, 2007; served with him on a statewide task force on mental health initiatives; and has been a colleague on the university’s Threat Assessment Team since it was created in 2007. 

“Chris has been a steady, positive influence on so many levels as he has worked with students and in his work shaping the university’s programs related to threat management,” said Heidbreder. “Virginia Tech has been fortunate to have his insight both in his work internally, but also because of the respect that others in the state have for him.  For example, his work on the state’s mental health review committee related to college mental health helped many institutions of higher education develop positive policies to learn from the experiences suffered by the Virginia Tech community after the shootings on campus.  He has been an excellent colleague and friend.”

In 2013, the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors honored Flynn with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes those who have provided outstanding service to the association and exemplary leadership in the field of college and university counseling centers.

Flynn’s work came at a time when colleges and universities across the country were experiencing dramatically increased student demand for mental health services. This trend was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have had the honor to work with, and be inspired by, Chris Flynn for the past 13 years,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for Student Affairs. “While many know Chris for his reputation as a national expert on college student mental health, those of us at Virginia Tech have been touched deeply by his compassion, empathy, and relentless care for students. His impact on the overall well-being of our community cannot be overstated. We are forever better and more well because of Chris’s remarkable service and leadership. The university’s mental health efforts are strong and will continue to thrive to honor his legacy of service to the university.”

Flynn holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Miami; a master's degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and a bachelor's degree from Clark University. He served on the board of directors of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors and the board of directors of the International Association of Counseling Services, which accredits university and college counseling centers and public and private counseling agencies.

Friends and colleagues are invited to celebrate Flynn on Monday, April 25, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Holtzman Alumni Center's Grand Hall.

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