History of the Psi Beta Chapter and Heather’s Bears

Rebecca Stapley
Mesa Legend

Professor with bear
(Photo: Rebecca Stapley / Mesa Legend)

Dr. Ann T. Ewing has been working as a full-time professor at Mesa Community College since 1987.  Her influence at MCC through the Department of Psychological Science has been significant and substantial from beginning to present day.  When she first began her journey at MCC, one of her goals was to establish a Psi Chi chapter. Psi Chi is the International Honor Society in Psychology founded in 1929 by Ruth Hubbard Cousins.

The organization, however, only included four-year college programs. After receiving letters from professors at two-year colleges who wanted to join the society, Cousins and her daughter, Carol Tracy, worked to establish Psi Beta, the National Honor Society in Psychology for Community and Junior Colleges. Almost just as soon as Psi Beta was established by Cousins and Tracy in 1981, Dr. Ewing got busy trying to bring it to MCC.

Unfortunately, a fee of $150 was required to start the chapter. She requested funds from Student Life but at the time they were incapable of providing such a sum for her endeavors. By banding together and putting in their best efforts, six of the eight members of the psychology department were able to come up with the money all on their own.

Dr. Ewing saidthat, “It was from the very beginning a department effort. Everyone has contributed in one way or another to bring it together and make it work.” The Psi Beta MCC chapter was issued May 10, 1989.  Since then it has received numerous awards and has been constantly recognized for its excellence at a national level.It earned the Community Service Club Award in 1990-91 and the Harcourt Brace Outstanding Chapter Award in 1992 and 1996-99.

After Psi Beta MCC won the Club of the Year award from the American Psychological Association from 1994-1996, the rules were changed so that once a club won the award, they would be judges for the next year’s selection.  Since then, it has earned the award one other time in 2001. That same year it won the Wadsworth Publishers Outstanding Chapter Award for “best achieving the promotion and recognition of excellence in scholarship, leadership, research, community service and interest in psychology.”

Psi Beta has also received direct recognition from the college itself. It earned the ASMCC Club of the Year award from 1996-98 for “having reached for the stars and soared to even higher heights.” Wooden plaques of these and other achievements can be found in the offices of the BP building in the Department of Psychological Science.

Also in the psychology office is a bookshelf full of scrapbooks dating all the way back to 1989 when the Psi Beta MCC chapter was first conceived. These scrapbooks are how the club has received so many awards in the past. They contain certificates, newsletters, membership records, schedules, flyers, photos, financial records, and more.

Dr. Ewing said about Psi Beta, “For psychology students it gives them an opportunity to develop leadership skills, to engage in community activities, to develop research skills and presentation skills. Most importantly, it gives them a chance to get to know other psychology students, or other students who share their interests,which I think is hard to do on a commuter campus.

It keeps them on campus and gives them a chance to do fun things together. It’s an avenue for us as faculty to get to know our students better.”  This concept of bringing students and faculty together to work, learn, and enjoy their time at MCC has been the focal point of the Psi Beta leadership over all these years.

The club has organized retreats in the mountains of Pine, hayrides in the desert, movie nights, evening lectures, advisement workshops, and various community service activities and programs. Services that Psi Beta MCC has participated in include clothing donations, food drives, depression screenings, Sunshine Acres, Heather’s Bears, and Adopt a Family.

The club continues to organize such activities on a regular basis and there are always exciting stories to tell about these events. Students and faculty love participating in community service with Psi Beta. Marissa McLelland, current Psi Beta President stated, “I have had the pleasure of taking part or running all of the community service projects over the past two years and I can honestly say it is one of the most rewarding opportunity I have experienced.

I love knowing that I am making a real difference in a child or families life when we do our events.” The mascot for Psi Beta came from one of the first community service projects organized by the directors and advisors called Heather’s Bears.  “The idea of Heather’s Bears came from a national Psi Beta member who lost a child and she started this community service project as a memorial to her child,” Dr. Ewing said.

We took that ball and ran with it. We did it for years, we collected bears.” Not just bears but stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes were collected and donated to children who had been in traumatic situations.  These furry friends were delivered by Psi Beta members to police stations and fire stations so that when the public safety officers went to homes where children may have been in crisis, the children would be soothed by the soft gifts.

The story of Beta Bear has been quite an interesting one. When it was chosen as a mascot for Psi Beta, club members dressed it in the stoals, ribbons, and robes that a student would wear upon graduation in Psi Beta.  The teddy came with the members to all the activities, events, and inductions, but that made it susceptible to kidnappers, or in this case, bear-nappers.

Beta Bear has been bear-napped twice in his 20 years with Psi Beta MCC chapter. The first time was sometime in October many years back when he just disappeared off of the shelf in the psychology department offices.  Dr. Ewing said, “We thought that some other club had bear-napped him and we’d get a ransom note or something and it was a prank.

We didn’t hear anything. We couldn’t find him. We never saw him and we thought we’d never see him again.” On the last day of classes at the end of the semester, they found him sitting in a corner just inside the doorway to the offices. “We never heard a word. We never figured it out. We never had anybody fess up. He just showed up,” concluded Dr. Ewing.

About 10 years later, Beta Bear was sitting on a registration outside Embassy Suites where Psi Beta was conducting their induction ceremony and dinner.  When the members came back outside after the event, he was gone. “But there was a stoal here and an honor cord there with parts of his clothing just strewn,” Dr. Ewing continued. “So we all started looking all over the hotel, asking people. This one little kid said, ‘This man tried to give me a bear and I told him I didn’t want it.’”

Apparently, a man had been there for the NASCAR races and had gotten himself so drunk that he bear-napped Beta Bear and took him to his suite. After the child described the man to the hotel employees, he was recognized and found in his room with the bear. Because of these two occurrences, several members of Psi Beta have started looking at their mascot as something of a miracle bear.

He’s not only valued because of his tradition and long time with Psi Beta MCC but because of everything he stands for.  He is the emblem of virtue, charity, leadership and love that Psi Beta members try to emulate in everything they do. If students want to participate in Heather’s Bears, there will be a donation box in the Psych office starting February 14.  All new or near new stuffed animals are welcome.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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