Dr. Irmo Marini's career has come full circle, in a sense.
Marini, professor and Ph.D. coordinator of the doctoral program in rehabilitation counseling in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at The University of Texas-Pan American, received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Lakehead University in Canada, the place where his career in rehabilitation counseling began.
He was one of four who received honorary degrees from the Canadian university at its commencement ceremony June 3. Other recipients include Beverly McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and Dr. James Orbinski, chair of Global Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and professor of Family and Community Medicine and political science at the University of Toronto. Lakehead also awarded an honorary doctorate posthumously to Dr. Lloyd Dennis, a pioneer in Canadian education.
"To be recognized by my Canadian colleagues with one of the highest honors a faculty member can have bestowed upon himself is quite humbling, especially when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is also given an honorary doctorate," Marini said. "What this honor means to me is an acknowledgment by my peers in their recognition of my passion to seek answers regarding research on the psychology of adjustment to disability."
Marini also gave a speech at the commencement, where he told graduates about the spinal cord injury he sustained as a hockey player for Lakehead that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
In his speech, Marini said that after his accident he began thinking why some people give up after adversity and others succeed and decided to switch his energy from aspiring to be a top athlete to focusing on becoming a top scholar.
"Don't go through the motions and waste your time just to be mediocre or to set yourself up for failure," Marini said. "We all have a passion to do something, and each of you has to find what that is in you."
Marini earned his bachelor's degree -- with honors -- and master's degree in psychology from Lakehead and served as the university's first student counselor for four years before leaving to attend Auburn University in Alabama, where he earned his doctorate in rehabilitation.
He joined UTPA in 1996 and helped implement the University's master's and Ph.D. programs in rehabilitation counseling by becoming the first coordinator for these programs. He currently is the coordinator for UT Pan American's doctoral program in rehabilitation, which is ranked No. 17 in the nation by US News & World Report.
Throughout his two decade academic career, Marini has won numerous awards, including the 2010 James F. Garrett distinguished career award in rehabilitation research from the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association and outstanding faculty research, teaching and service awards from Arkansas State University and UT Pan American.
In addition to his work in academia, Marini also owns a rehabilitation consulting practice, Marini & Associates. He also is a vocational expert witness with the Social Security Administration and a life care planning and vocational expert who has testified as an expert witness in more than 3,000 cases throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Marini has co-authored and co-edited three books in counseling and the psychology of disability in the last four years.