Later Chapters with Niel Carey

By Rich Feller

As its first Executive Director, E. Niel Carey professionalized the National Career Development Association with his vision, energy, and perspective about change. Working with the NCDA Presidents and Board of Directors he established the organization’s office in the Washington DC area, facilitated creation of the first Gallup survey, birthed the first independent conference, and introduced publication of NCDA’s professional books. Upon retirement he remained actively involved as a member and chair of the Government Relations Committee and the NCDA Brain Trust.

Niel CareyNiel came to NCDA after a very successful career as a high school counselor, department chair, and State Supervisor of Vocational Guidance in Maryland. He led the development of a state plan and program for career education in Maryland, one of the first in the nation. He chaired the state career education coordinators who created the framework for the American Association for Career Education. Niel later became president of the organization. He co-authored an NCDA Career Developments lead article on public policy with Rebecca Dedmond and Charles Lehman and another on career transitions with Ed Herr.

Beyond his infectious smile and ability to welcome others, Niel received many honors. They include Outstanding Maryland Educator by the Maryland State PTA, Outstanding Alumni by Salisbury University and the University of Maryland, and the Ken Hoyt Career Achievement Award. NCDA bestowed upon Niel the Legislation Award, Presidential Recognition honor, and named him a Fellow.


This is the eighth interview within the Career Convergence series on experienced NCDA leaders as they offer insights about their “later chapters” and navigating a lifetime of transitions. This project hopes to add to the knowledge base of ageless aging, transitions, and questions critical to developing career development leaders.


What helped you to gain your voice within the field?
My University of Maryland graduate education; participation in professional associations including the American Counseling Association and the National Career Development Association; interaction with professional colleagues; access to professional research, literature and practice; and constant encouragement and support from my wife helped me gain my voice within our field.


What authors, mentors, and experiences most shaped your career development work/practice?
My career development professional work and practice has been based on research, teaching and practice of a number of leaders and associates in the field. Wes Tennyson’s and Ed Herr’s writing on incorporating career development objectives in the education curriculum and Sunny Hansen’s articulate commentary on the role of career development in achieving equity in education provided a strong rationale for strengthening career development. Lee Richmond, Thelma Daley, Ken Hoyt, Howard Marshall, JoAnn Bowlsbey and Nancy Schlossberg were valuable advisers and mentors as we worked to develop Maryland’s career education plan and program.

At the same time I was working to strengthen career education in Maryland, Bill Dugan, Executive Director of what is now the American Counseling Association, asked me to chair the Legislative Committee of that association. After two years in that role, mentored by Deputy Executive Director Joe McDonough, my knowledge of federal policy, budget and operations was strengthened, and my ability to advocate for the counseling profession improved.

Unfortunately, after being diagnosed with bladder cancer, I decided to retire from professional activity and focus on my treatment and therapy. The strategy worked. After a year, I was declared cancer-free. Soon after, I was encouraged to apply for the newly created position of Executive Director of what is now the National Career Development Association. Working with Sunny and other NCDA presidents including Lee Richmond, David Jepsen, Carol Minor, Debbie Bloch, Ken Hoyt and Howard Splete, was a great opportunity for me to learn from their expertise and experience as we worked to develop and strengthen NCDA.


To what degree have you lived a life following what you professed about career development principles?
My own life has benefitted greatly from my professional practice and guidelines--especially from my association and interaction with professional colleagues and mentors. Balancing family and work, maintaining strong ethical standards, and serving my profession and my community has been strengthened by my professional career development work principles and vice versa. I have tried consistently to set a positive example in work and life.


What have you learned about/from fear, self-doubt, confidence and power?
My own life experience has told me that fear often follows or results in self-doubt. On the other hand, effective professional practice and work leads to professional confidence and continuing good work. Personally, power has never been an issue in my work. My self-confidence has enabled me to gather the support needed for my work.


In hindsight, what opportunities might you have taken that you passed on?
I have given considerable thought to this question and have not been able to identify a single opportunity that I have passed on. I guess service is so much a part of who I am that I have been unable to pass on any opportunity to serve my profession, my community, or my family.


What natural tensions have been a theme in your life?
The tensions that I have dealt with have focused on having the desire to carry out family responsibilities when the work responsibilities were the greatest. At the same time, my interest in doing my best work in serving my profession and my community was strong. Fortunately, my work experience and the knowledge and support I have received from colleagues and family-especially my wife-have enabled me to maintain and achieve family and work goals.


What are your thoughts about what’s ahead for you?
I have always been a long-range planner, so I am constantly thinking about and filling my calendar with service. I look forward to continuing as an active member of the NCDA Government Relations Committee, chaired so effectively and enthusiastically by Diana Bailey. My wife, Helen, and I continue our strong interest in the Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University. Helen and I endowed the creation of the Carey Family Research Room at that facility. I continue to serve as President of the Carey/Cary Family organization which features a book on the family research of our members. A few years ago, Helen and I endowed the Carey Career Development In Education Fellowship at the University of Maryland College of Education. Communicating with the recipients and learning of their work is an interesting activity for us.


How is your biological clock impacting your choices?
Even though dealing with major health issues, I have good doctors and medical care so I am optimistic. At age 90, I value every day of life and try to make the most of each day.


What advice do you offer your younger self? What’s the most critical advice you want to share with new professionals in our field?
My advice is simply to enjoy life, avoid stress, love and serve people, and don’t forget to pay your dues!


What one sentence would you use to describe the legacy that you hope to leave to the field?
I hope my legacy can be: He learned, taught, counseled, and served, with at least some degree of success.



Rich FellerRich Feller, Ph.D, is a former NCDA President, Professor of Counseling and Career Development and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Emeritus at Colorado State University, and recipient of the NCDA Eminent Career Award. Contact Rich.feller@colostate.edu and www.richfeller.com







Printer-Friendly Version


Rich Feller   on Thursday 09/01/2022 at 05:33 PM

It is a great honor to bring attention to Niel's work in helping to position NCDA as a national leader for career development. His dedication to the field, members and his family serves as a model to all professionals. Thank you Niel always.

Paul Timmins   on Thursday 09/01/2022 at 06:40 PM

Niel - Thanks for your ongoing commitment to NCDA and to our profession. I really appreciate this article; you're an inspiration!

Niel Carey   on Friday 09/02/2022 at 01:11 PM

Rich, thanks for your interview and for your comment. It has always been a real personal and professional benefit to work with you. Your professional style and work ethic have always been an inspiration.

Paul, Thanks for your comments. I have enjoyed and benefited from our contacts.

Deneen Pennington   on Tuesday 09/06/2022 at 10:35 AM

I love reading this about my favorite NCDA mentor! Niel is the best and I love the comment "pay your dues!" He will always be NCDA's #1 supporter.

Niel Carey   on Tuesday 09/06/2022 at 11:21 AM

Thanks, Deneen. I appreciate and value your comment.

Edward Colozzi   on Monday 09/26/2022 at 05:23 PM

Thank you Rich for your recognition of and interview with Neil. ALL of our NCDA family have been somehow touched by Neil because of his authentic passion for NCDA and our collective mission, his kindhearted service-centered wisdom, mentoring and leadership, and especially his collaboration with those very special individuals mentioned in his interview (and others of course) who have surely formed the very soul of our wonderful NCDA since its inception. I fondly remember a brief and meaningful chat with Neil at the NCDA Centennial Celebration here in Boston in the summer of 2013 when he shared his genuine appreciation for NCDA and all this Association has become. Ditto to Deneen's comments, and thank you Neil for all your contributions over the years!

Rebecca Dedmond   on Wednesday 10/12/2022 at 06:22 PM

Niel's leadership in NCDA, and a resulting friendship, have had a great impact on my career, and my service in NCDA! This well-deserved tribute is a great opportunity to publicly thank Niel!

Edward Colozzi   on Wednesday 06/21/2023 at 11:32 AM

Neil Carey’s many important contributions to our profession have surely been instrumental in forming the heart and very soul of our wonderful NCDA that is now one hundred and ten years young. His deep seated value for forging authentic relationships, including his collaborative leadership style and passion for our common sacred work, to help individuals across the life span discover meaning, was powerfully satisfying for Neil. He shared in his 2015 autobiography, that “being involved in that process continues to enrich my life and to energize me!”. (See Rich Feller’s “Later Chapters with Neil Carey, 9/1/2022)

Neil was NCDA’s first Executive Director, and his ability to creatively weave the present into the future with his talents and values related to long-range planning shaped NCDA’s future. His enthusiasm, level of self awareness, self-confidence, humility, and very caring attitude regarding how he treated others, were the core of his role modeling, mentoring and effective leadership that will continue to touch many lives. Heaven is where Neil will now continue to share his special gifts. Thank you Neil for your amazing role-modeling and gift of being present with others to make positive changes. EdC

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.