Psychology is a subject that attracts people from many different places. Whether someone approaches the field to help themselves, to help others or for general education, there is always a beginning to this intellectual curiosity.
Psychology Professor Anthony Drago has had an interest for the mind most of his life, and because of it, he has won ESU’s Distinguished Professor Award.
“I’m a first-generation college student,” Drago said. “You always thought about going to college after high school. It was one of the expectations that you would continue.
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I was 15 years of age, my father died unexpectedly. He was 42. After he died, college wasn’t even a thought. My mother worked as a seamstress at a blouse mill. We had to survive. I had a 12-year-old sister, we were taking care of her. I wasn’t even thinking in those terms.”
Eventually, his perspective of college changed. Drago said that he was a football player in high school, so he thought about being a physical education teacher for a while.
He had an interest in playing in college, but ultimately decided this wouldn’t be the best route to go.
When he took his first psychology course, he dove into the subject and knew it was for him.
“Before I knew it, I was just immersed in the subject area and loved it and became a psychology major,” Drago said.
Drago worked as a mental-health technician at Pocono Medical Center for many years. He eventually became the Director of the Mental Health Unit. Pocono Medical helped pay for his tuition to become a professor. He’s been part of ESU since 1987.
“Beyond a doubt, the most gratifying aspect of teaching is mentoring and seeing the next generation of mental health professionals learn about mental health, learn about treatment, and getting them prepared at the undergraduate level for graduate school, and then hearing from them several years afterwards that they’re doing very well,” Drago said.
“You don’t really want a job afterward, you don’t want a career, you want a calling. You want something that’s really you, can’t imagine not doing that.”
He believes that being a psychology professor and therapist is his calling. He has a private practice that he still runs seeing outpatients, so he also gets a lot of gratification from that.
When asked about the most difficult part of the job, he had no clear answers to give.
Drago gives lectures locally, nationally and internationally. One of his favorite places to visit was Costa Rica. He mentioned how beautiful and different it was.
When he was there, a volcano erupted. The volcano didn’t reach the beach, so he and the rest of his colleagues stayed there until it was safe. He has also taught classes at St. Croix.
“I’ve been affiliated with ESU in one capacity for 42 years…That’s two-thirds of my life,” Drago said. “Family is more than a name. Family is when you spend a lifetime, and I’ve spent a lifetime here. I really view ESU as my family. I can’t imagine not having ESU.”
He said how close the ESU Psychology Department is with each other and they have been through a lot together.
“ESU’s been here for me, for good times and bad, through crisis and happy times,” Drago said.
“I think I have the most wonderful department. We’re a very close-knit department. We’ve gone through eight or nine births with our faculty members, and we’ve also gone through several deaths with our faculty members. So it really is a family.”
He said how his children have all graduated from ESU. They were all psychology majors and have all gone into graduate-level education.
They started the Drago Family Scholarship to give back to the university that has given them so much.
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