William E. Pelham Jr., the founding director of FIU’s Center for Children and Families, was posthumously inducted into the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida in November.
The distinguished university professor passed away in late October following a brief illness, leaving behind a legacy of research and groundbreaking work that transformed the field of child and adolescent psychology. The Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida brings together the nation’s most distinguished scholars who live and work in Florida. One of 15 scholars inducted as part of the academy’s 2023 class, Pelham was recognized for his contributions to the understanding and treatment of children’s mental health challenges that are improving lives worldwide.
Widely renowned as the foremost authority on the behavioral treatment of ADHD, Pelham is credited with decelerating the role of medication-first treatment regimens in favor of more evidence-based treatment programs. He was one of the lead researchers behind one of the largest long-term studies of youth with ADHD that advanced understanding of how treatment decisions and family dynamics can impact long-term outcomes. His work led the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics to publish new clinical guidelines that strongly recommend behavioral intervention as the first-line treatment for youth with ADHD.
Pelham joined FIU in 2010 and established the FIU Center for Children and Families (CCF). Under his leadership, the center recruited top psychologists and researchers who are focused on improving the lives of youth through interventions that can have lifelong impacts. He was named Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry in 2012 and served as the Department Chair of Psychology in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education from 2012 until 2017.
“We will never be able to measure the impact of Dr. Pelham’s legacy, because it extends far beyond his own research and clinical work,” said Mike Heithaus, executive dean of FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education. “He was a mentor to so many. His methods are taught in psychology programs all across the U.S. He built a team here at CCF that will carry on his legacy and continue to transform the lives of children and their families. We are just grateful he made FIU part of his legacy.”
Among his many awards, Pelham was recognized for his scientific contributions to clinical psychology by the American Psychological Association and the Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology and for his trailblazing work in ADHD treatments by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. He received the FIU President’s Council Worlds Ahead Faculty Award in 2019 and was recognized multiple times by the College of Arts, Sciences & Education for research and community engagement. In 2015, the Center for Children and Families received the Beacon Council’s Life Sciences & Healthcare award for significant contributions to the community in the areas of job creation, business expansion, corporate citizenship and leadership.
He served on multiple national association boards including the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Psychological Association, and was also a board Member for Children’s Trust in Miami and previously served as a Board Member for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc.
Prior to joining FIU, Pelham served as SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and director of the Center for Children and Families there. Earlier in his career, he taught at Washington State University, Florida State University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He was a licensed psychologist in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.