The Mel Schulstad Professional of the Year Award is a vanguard award that recognizes an innovative individual who has made outstanding and sustained contributions to the advancement of the addiction counseling profession on a national level.
The award was created in November 1979 by Jay Lewis, former editor and publisher of The Alcoholism Report, and a select group of his peers and colleagues in honor of Mel Schulstad, one of the founders of the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors (NAAC), the association that would eventually become NAADAC.
Any NAADAC member in good standing may nominate an individual for this award, which is selected by the NAADAC Awards Committee. Current members of the NAADAC Executive Committee are ineligible for this award.
Colonel Mel Schulstad (retired) was the co-founder and past president of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. During his lifetime, Schulstad won ten local and national awards for his work in the addiction-recovery movement and was made an honorary lifetime member of NAADAC in 2008.
Schulstad came to the addiction profession from an unusual starting point: the U.S. Air Force. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939 and flew 44 missions over France and Germany as a B-17 bomber pilot during World War II. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor in combat. He retired in 1966 and eventually located to Virginia, hoping to use his own recovery from alcoholism as a tool to help others suffering from the disease.
Upon his return to Virginia, Schulstad immediately became a volunteer at the newly implemented Fairfax Hospital alcohol program and began working as a paid counselor in Arlington County in 1973 at a time when most of society did not know what that meant. As a passionate advocate for people living with substance use disorders and the professionals who serve them, Schulstad was elected the first President of the Virginia Association of Alcoholism Counselors (VAAC), now the Virginia Association of Addiction Professionals (VAAP). In 1974, he was elected President of the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors (NAAC), the predecessor of NAADAC. His namesake award was established in 1979, and Schulstad made a point of attending NAADAC’s Annual Conferences so he could personally present the award named in his honor. Age began to take its toll on his health, and he announced that the NAADAC 2008 Annual Meeting would be the last one that he would attend. The pioneer of the addiction counseling profession passed away peacefully in his sleep January 6, 2012 at the age of 93.
2021 Mel Shulstad Professional of the Year:
Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS
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The Mel Shulstad Professional of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding and sustained contributions to the advancement of the addiction counseling profession.
The recipient of this year’s Mel Schulstad Professional of the Year Award is Thurston S. Smith, MPA, LAC, CCS. Smith has over 25 years of experience in the addiction counseling profession specializing in behavioral healthcare, education, training, and public policy. He is a community leader, advocate, and mentor who currently serves as Administrative Surveyor for CARF International and a project team member for Paramount Consulting Group, PLLC. As a retiree of the U.S. Veterans’ Health Administration, Smith has served in a variety of leadership roles throughout his civil service career, including Congressional Liaison. With emphasis on criminal and juvenile justice policy reform, he has provided oral testimony before the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Political Education & Leadership Institute and the Tennessee House of Representatives. Smith demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to advancing addiction treatment and behavioral health services through drug policy reform, advocacy, legislative recommendations, and mentorship. Smith has made numerous contributions to NAADAC’s newest committee, the Critical Issues in the Black Community Committee, and he also worked as a liaison for speakers at NAADAC’s first Engagement in the Black Community Summit this year. As a U.S. Treasury Department appointee, Smith fulfilled a three-year federal advisory committee term on the IRS National Taxpayer Advocacy Panel and is currently fulfilling his second term of service on the Community Resource Board for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He has proven his clinical wisdom and expertise, tireless devotion to underserved people, and profound understanding of both federal and local regulations.
To be given this award, the nominee must:
The nomination period is now closed.
- have a minimum of twenty years in the addiction counseling profession or related service;
- demonstrate a history of commitment to advancing the addiction profession, to growing and supporting the needs of the addiction profession, and to increasing access for individuals to quality treatment by quality addiction professionals on the local, state, national, and/or international levels;
- be an active NAADAC member in good standing (i.e., the individual must be a voting member as opposed to an honorary member); and
- have demonstrated to the satisfaction of one's peers full compliance and support of NAADAC's Code of Ethics.
To nominate an addiction professional for this award, please submit:
- a letter of nomination explaining how the nominee fulfills the eligibility requirements and the spirit of the award;
- at least three letters of support from three different sources (e.g., individuals, organizations or agencies) (Please note that these three letters must be from sources other than the nominator.);
- the nominee’s resume; and
- a completed Award Nomination Form.
Submissions may be sent by email to [email protected] (preferred) or by mail to:
NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals
ATTN: Awards Committee Chair
44 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 301
Alexandria, VA 22314
Deadline: All award nominations much be received by July 31, 2021 for consideration.
Please note that award winners will be asked to submit a short video acknowledging their award for use by NAADAC on the NAADAC website, social media accounts, and other marketing materials. The award will be sent to an address provided by the awardee.
For additional information, please contact Kristin Hamilton, JD, at [email protected] or 703.741.7686 x131.
Past Award Recipients
2020 John Lisy, LICDC-CS, OCPC, LISW-S, LPCC-S (Cleveland Heights, OH)
2019 Chris Budnick, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS (Raleigh, NC)
2018 Shelly Dutch, CSAC, ICS (Madison, WI)
2017 Leigh Kolondny-Kraft, LCADC, CSAT, CCTP, SAP, CCGC, ICADC (Florham Park, N.J.)
2016 James Joyner, LICDCCS (Cleveland, OH)
2015 Edward Reading, PhD, LADC (Ortley Beach, N.J.)
2014 Scott Kelley, LCDC (Dublin, TX)
2013 Ebony Jamillah Stockton, MEd, LCAS, CCDP, CSAC (Suffolk, VA)
2012 William J. Cosgriff, PhD (Springfield, MA)
2011 Rocio Del Milagro Woody, MSW (Atlanta, GA)
2010 Woody Giessmann (Arlington, MA)
2009 Elizabeth Ann Coccia (Austin, TX)
2008 Roman Frankel, PhD, CCS, NCAC II, CBIS, CEAP, CCGC (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
2007 Larry Ashley (Henderson, NV)
2006 Frances Clark, PhD (Hermitage, TN)
2005 Mark Fratzke (Honolulu, HI)
2005 Keith H. Liles (Houston, TX)
2004 Philip Guinsburg (Nashville, TN)
2003 Terry Gray (Tucson, AZ)
2002 Cynthia Moreno Tuohy (Snohomish, WA)
2001 Larry Abernathy (Clemson, S.C.)
2000 Dr. Michael Watson (Bamberg, S.C.)
1999 Joseph Doyle (Medford, MA)
1998 Fred French (Marshfield, MA)
1997 Eugene N. Crone (Mount Dora, FL)
1995 Dr. Patrice Muchowski (Worcester, MA)
1994 Charles J. Arnaud (North Miami, FL)
1993 Len Ford (Lanett, AL)
1993 Maryanne Frangules (Mattapan, MA)
1992 Dave Lombard (AL)
1991 Bill Hairston (Northampton, MA)
1990 Bill Brooks (Indianapolis, IN)
1989 Robert Sheridan (MA)
1988 Leroy L. Kelly (Ashland, MA)
1987 Daniel J. Crowe (IN)
1986 Steve Valle (MA)
1985 John Brumbaugh (Columbus, IN)
1984 Pete Petree (San Diego, CA)
1983 Dr. Marcia Lawton (Richmond, VA)
1982 Bob Dorris (CA)
1981 LeClair Bissell (Sanibel, FL)
1980 Will Foster