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Palo Alto University to Hold Founders’ Celebration & Reunion

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Alumnus Charles Reed, Ph.D., MFT

­­Palo Alto University Plans Celebration to Honor its Founders

A celebration and reunion of the founders of Palo Alto University (PAU) is planned for September 21, 2019, thanks to the efforts of Charles Reed, Ph.D., MFT.  PAU was founded as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP) by a group of students and professors, including Dr. Reed, who were concerned about the limited number of psychology doctoral programs in the area. Together, they launched a grassroots effort to address the problem and in 1975 opened what is today PAU.

The Early Days

Recently, Dr. Reed spoke about the impetus for opening PGSP. In the early 1970s, alarm bells went off when the Psychology Studies Institute in Palo Alto began to falter. This created a tenuous situation in which educational and professional careers were in jeopardy if degrees could not be completed at an accredited institution. Taking matters into their own hands, students and professors joined together to form PGSP, an independent, professional school that first opened its doors on University Avenue in Palo Alto.

“It was an amazing journey,” Dr. Reed said of the collaborative group that came together to create the school. “All decisions about opening PGSP were done by consensus,” he said, remembering that up to 50 people were involved. The work paid off and PGSP received state approval to offer a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. PGSP reincorporated as Palo Alto University in 2009 when masters and undergraduate programs were added to the doctoral curriculum

Students on Pillows and Bean Bag Chairs

“At first we were just 35 students and a dozen excellent professors. We sat on pillows and bean bag chairs,” Dr. Reed said. “The school was an egalitarian society in some ways. The faculty were mostly part-time, so students took on a major role in running things.”  Dr. Reed held various administrative positions including the school’s first chairman of the board of directors.

PAU, then PGSP, was accredited in 1986 by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and by the American Psychological Association in 1986. The school continued to evolve in the 1990’s, becoming a more traditional, formally-run institution that focused on expanding beyond clinical psychology applications, including research. In the following decade, several milestones were achieved. An evidence-based Psy.D. program was established in partnership with Stanford University. Master’s programs in Counseling and Psychology were added as were undergraduate programs in Psychology and Social Action, and Psychology and Business. 

PAU: Then and Now

“It is very gratifying to look back on those early days and then to see how PAU has grown and evolved,” said Dr. Reed. “As a member of the PAU Alumni Association and PAU’s Alumni Council, I am very proud of the positive impact that students and faculty are having not just in service to our local community but in the far corners of the world.”

“We are thankful for the vision and commitment to excellence Dr. Reed and his cohorts had when they laid a solid foundation for the outstanding university we have today,” said PAU President Maureen O’Connor. “I am personally excited to meet our founders and hear their stories. Our Founders are an integral part of the PAU family. We are honored to have Dr. Reed take the lead on this important event that will bring alumni, founders, and faculty to celebrate PAU and its history.

Dr. Reed continues to maintain a private practice today in Fremont and meets with a few of his PGSP colleagues on a regular basis. In his spare time, he makes olive oil from trees on his ranch and raises llamas.  

Founders’ Celebration & Reunion

Dr. Reed looks forward to connecting with his early-day co-founders at the reunion, which will be held at noon on September 21, 2019 at MacArthur Park Restaurant, Palo Alto. For details about the PAU’s Founders’ Celebration, please contact Tanya Schornack at

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