Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz
Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz (2010) at his 50th High School Class Party.jpg
Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz (2010) at his 50th High School Class Party
Born November 23, 1943
Cayey, Puerto Rico
Nationality Puerto Rican
Occupation psychologist
Prewitt Díaz was the recipient of the American Psychological Association's 2008 International Humanitarian Award.

Joseph Orlando Prewitt Díaz, PhD (born November 23, 1943) is a retired psychologist who specialized in psychosocial theory. He was the recipient of the American Psychological Association's 2008 International Humanitarian Award.[1]

Early years[edit]

Prewitt Díaz was born in Cayey, Puerto Rico. In 1964 he represented Puerto Rico in the Encampment for Citizenship a summer youth program that encouraged volunteerism and sought to educate its participants about civic responsibility, and participation in government.[2] Upon his return to Cayey, he joined Rev. Peter L. Pond, a theologist and community organizer and [3] Dr. Samuel Silva Gotay, a liberation theologist in the development of VESPRA “Voluntarios en Servicio a Puerto Rico”.[4] He served as the training coordinator and outward bound instructor[5]

Civil Air Patrol[edit]

As a child he loved to fly. While in the Benjamin Harrison School in Cayey, P.R. his favorite class was aeronautics and as a result he joined the Civil Air Patrol (1956–1959). By the age of 15 he had soloed in a Piper Cub. His dream of flying “low and slow” was put on the back burner until 1988 when he rejoined the Pennsylvania Wing.[6] He served the organization until 2000.[6] He served as Squadron Commander, Red Cross Liaison, and Legislative Affairs Officer for the Pennsylvania Wing and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.[6] During that period of time he went back to flying and achieved the Aeronautical Rating of Master Observer.[6] He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal for his services.[6]


Prewitt Díaz completed his undergraduate studies and graduate studies in psychology and counseling psychology at the University of Puerto Rico. He completed two additional graduate degrees in the United States: educational psychology at Trinity College, and Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction at Neumann College. He received his PhD degree from the University of Connecticut and pursued Post Doctoral studies at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.

Academic appointments[edit]

Prewitt Díaz has held faculty appointments at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, The Pennsylvania State University, the Medical School of the National University of Honduras, Program in Psychiatry, and the Graduate Program in Disaster Management at Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi, India.


The World Education Fellowship 1975–1978 allowed him to study language development and cultural adjustment of Puerto Rican children in Connecticut. As a recipient of a W. K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellowship,[7] he visited Brazil, Argentina and Mexico exploring the role of community health in improving the quality of life of resource-poor communities. A Woodrow Wilson Hispanic Fellowship resulted in the first draft of a 1994 book entitled The Psychology of Puerto Rican Migration, an ethnographic study.

Migration to and within United States[edit]

In 1973, Prewitt Díaz was invited to become the In-service Coordinator for a Teacher Corps Project at the University of Hartford (CT).[8] He provided training to 30 teachers related to cultural issues pertaining to the effects of migrancy and schooling of Puerto Rican children.[9] As a result he was awarded the “Outstanding Staff Service Certificate” by the National Director of the Teacher Corps in 1973. He became the first certified school psychologist in Connecticut.[10] He was hired by the Hartford Public School system as the Director of Project MAS (More Alternative for Students) a dropout prevention program for middle and high school.[11] In 1975 he developed the Bilingual Program for High School students at Bulkeley High School.[12] In his years in Hartford he was a member of the Hartford Human Rights Commission, and the Board of “La Casa de Puerto Rico”.

After completing his doctoral degree he was invited to teach in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction, the Pennsylvania State University. During his tenure at Penn State he developed and taught courses in cross cultural research, testing of Puerto Rican children, methods and procedures for evaluating for placement into Special Education of bilingual children and migrancy and its effects on children. He developed an academic component of the graduate program focused on cross-cultural psychology, methods and research tools. In addition he maintained practicum for his students in Bethlehem, Chester, Lancaster and York, PA. These weekly long trips provided a laboratory for graduate students, an opportunity for parents to seek advices that provided assistance for their children. During his tenure (1978–1992) he served as Advisor Puerto Rican doctoral and Master level students whom upon their graduation returned to Puerto Rico to assume leadership position in Universities in the Island or remained in schools districts in Pennsylvania.

In 1992 he was instrumental in the development of a Mental Health Clinic in Reading, Pennsylvania, affiliated to the Spanish Speaking Center. He continued to volunteer with the American Red Cross, and the Civil Air Patrol. In September 1992 he left Reading, PA to serve in Hurricane Andrew in Florida and the North Eastern storm in New Jersey.[13] He returned to Pennsylvania, this time to the Chester-Upland School District as a School Psychologist. As a result of his efforts with linguistically and behaviorally challenged children and their parents, he was awarded the 1998 Pennsylvania Education Association “Human and Civil Rights Award”.

He served in the mid-1990s as a Pastor of the “El Mesías” United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, where he experienced first hand the emotional and spiritual challenges of inner city living. This discernment period led him to a career change into the humanitarian assistance field with the American Red Cross International Services.

American Red Cross volunteer and paid staff[edit]

Dr. Joseph O Prewitt Diaz served as volunteer for the American Red Cross since 1976, when he organized Blood drives at Bulkeley High School, Hartford, CT. He served from 1992 to 2001 as a volunteer for Disaster Services of the American Red Cross.[14] During that period he served in 24 National Disaster Response operations as a mental health specialist and coordinator in floods, tornadoes, Hurricanes, air crashes, and hurricanes. Among the most prominent are Hurricane Andrew 1992;[15] Los Angeles Earthquake in 1994,[16] the Oklahoma City Bombing 1995,[17] in 1998 in Hurricane Goerges as the East Region of Puerto Rico Coordinator.[18] On the 9/11 attacks He served as a Disaster Mental Health coordinator of the Family Assistance Center[19] in the recovery of UNITED 93 in Shanksville, PA.[20][21][22]

Prewitt Diaz served as a paid staff with the American Red Cross for ten years. He was invited to become an International Delegate on August 5, 1998. He served as the Regional Program Coordinator for Central America, Psychosocial Functional Advisor and the Head of Programs in India.

Prewitt Díaz helped to train Red Cross volunteers in mental health support in the wake of the 2001 El Salvador earthquakes. While in El Salvador he was awarded the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award.

He represented the American Red Cross as a member of the team of 20 experts that drafted the Inter-Agency Standing Committee IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support International Guidelines.

When the 2004 tsunami battered the shores of South Asian countries, the American Red Cross psychosocial support team based in India and led by disaster mental health expert, Joseph Prewitt Díaz, quickly responded to the devastated to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia to assist in developing programs.[23]

Prewitt Díaz made significant adaptations to the psychosocial support program on the basis of his extensive experience in Hurricane Mitch in Central America, the earthquake-affected area in Bhuj and the riot-torn camps in Gujarat. Part of the adaptation was to build a detailed career ladder of advanced training, enabling paid and volunteer local staff to build their knowledge and expertise over time in a well-structured process.[24] According to Jacobs (2007) The work of Prewitt Díaz has been the foundation of a virtual quantum leap in psychological support in the South Asia region and have produced a second generation of psychological support programs.

In the critical early weeks following the tsunami, American Red Cross-trained volunteers in psychological first aid developed programs in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India.[23] These psychosocial programs initiated by the American Red Cross team planned to provide service to the children and their families in communities and schools. Five years later psychosocial support services have been provided to more than 733,700 people).

The team focused on training Red Cross/Red Crescent paid and volunteer staff to reach the most vulnerable of the tsunami affected areas.[23] Five years later 277,000 Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers, and implementing a variety of activities such as support groups, events that bring communities back together, livelihoods programs and play activities for children have been trained.

This effort earned Prewitt Díaz a Special Achievement Reward in recognition of the extraordinary results achieved through intensive problem solving, innovation and creativity. He was also awarded the Tiffany Award (the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an employee or volunteer).

Honors and awards[edit]

Prewitt Díaz has been recognized for his outstanding achievements and contributions to the education and well-being marginalized children and youth by two Pennsylvania governors. He received the Pennsylvania Heritage Award from Governor Robert P. Casey in 1990,[25] and the Latino Pride Award from Governor Tom Ridge in 1999. Governor Ella Grasso of Connecticut had honored him with an appointment as a trustee to the Regional Community Colleges on June 28, 1977.


Prewitt Díaz has published extensively over his career. By 1997 he had published over one hundred refereed journal articles on assessment, migration, mental health and education of Puerto Rican children in the United States and Puerto Rico. In the latter part of his career he has authored or co-authored 32 books addressing the psychosocial needs of disaster affected people in Central and South America as well as South Asia (American Psychologist, 2008).

The following are selected books over a twenty-year period:

  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O., Laksminarayana, R, & Murthy, R.S. (Eds.). (2006). Advances in mental health and psychosocial support. New Delhi, India: Voluntary Health Association of India.[26]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. (2006). Psychosocial support programs: From theory to a systematized approach. New Delhi, India: Voluntary Health Association of India.[27]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O., Laksminarayana, R, & Murthy, R.S. (Eds.). (2004). Disaster mental health in India. New Delhi, India: Voluntary Health Association of India.[28]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. (2002). Apoyo psicosocial en desastres: Un modelo para Guatemala. Ciudad de Guatemala: Cruz Roja Guatemalteca.[29]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. (2001). Primeros auxilios psicológicos. El Salvador, San Salvador: Cruz Roja Salvadoreña & USAID.[30]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. & Speck, M. (2000). Programa de preparación para desastres en Centro América. Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Cruz Roja Hondurena y la Federacion Internacional de la Cruz Roja y la Media Luna Roja.[31]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. & Saballos Ramírez, M. (2000) Salud psicosocial en un desastre complejo: El effecto del huracán Mitch en Nicaragua. Managua, Nicaragua: La Universidad para la Paz (Naciones Unidas).[32]
  • Prewitt Díaz, J.O. (1995). The psychology of Puerto Rican migration. Chester, PA: Linder Press.[33]

He was the primary author (with Dr. Robert Trotter III and Victor Rivera) of a three-year study titled “The effects of migration on children. An ethnographic study”.[34] The study documents for the first time the existence of the “culture of migrancy” and its effects on children and their schooling. As a result of the unveiling of this study Pennsylvania served as a host to the first public hearings of the National Commission on Migrant Education chaired by Linda Chavez, Esq.[34] on August 7, 1990 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Doctoral Thesis supervised[edit]

During his tenure at the Pennsylvania State University he supervised Master thesis and Doctoral dissertation for person that have become educational leaders in Puerto Rico. The following is a partial list of doctoral dissertations:

Caraballo, Jose Noel. (1985). The effect of various visual display modes in computer-based instruction and language background upon achievement of selected educational objectives. Thesis (Ph.D) Pennsylvania State University. (Cd5192)

Delgado Albino, Ana M., (1983). A survey and analysis of Puerto Rico accredited institutions of higher education personnel perceptions of faculty development practices and beliefs with a view to identifying some critical needs. Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4558).

Estrada, Nidia E. (1987). An evaluative study of the effects of the Toro Negro English Language Immersion School on a group of eighth-grade Puerto Rican students. Thesis (D.Ed.). Pennsylvania State University. (Cd5993).

Fermin de Garcia, Carmen Olivia. (1983). An exploratory study of staff development readiness perceptions of faculty members and administrators of the Instituto Universitario Politecnico de las Fuerzas Armadas de Venezuela (IUPFAN). Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State university. (Cd4713)

Figueroa Vila, Ismael (1988). Puerto Rican dropouts on the mainland: An oral History. Thesis (D.Ed.). Pennsylvania State University. (Cd6651).

Gierbolini Rodriguez, Angel M. (1984). The development and validation of a burnout measure : the Inventario de Extenuacion Personal (IEP)--in a selected group of bilinqual special education teachers in Puerto Rico. Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4983)

Litchfield Garcia, Fernando. (1982). Impact of three approaches to nutrition instruction on fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade Puerto Rican students. Thesis (Ed.D.)--Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4040).

Lopez-Ramirez, Norma I., (1986). The impact of changing environment on six behavioral and psychological traits in Puerto Rican adults. Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State University (Cd5839).

Nogueras, Juan A. (1983) The standardization of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) on a selected group of migrant and non-migrant Puerto Rican students. Thesis (Ph.D.) – Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4454)

Ramos Mateo, A. (1983) A study of the adult education needs as perceived by five selected groups of respondents in the central mountain region of Puerto Rico. Thesis (Ph.D.)- Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4752)

Rivera, Rosalida. (1984).A study of the effectiveness and appropriateness of three methodological approaches—Basal, Mixed, and Language Experience—with return migrant students in Humacao, Puerto Rico. Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State University (Cd5029)

Rivera Ruiz, David. (1984). Linguistic applicability and the predictive validity of the Escala de Inteligencia Wechsler para Ninos : Revisada (EIWN-R) with a group of seventh- and eighth-graders. Thesis (Ph.D.). The Pennsylvania State University. (Cd5142).

Rodriguez, Victor L. (1988). A correlational study among scores of the EIWN-R, using the WISC-R norms and the Spanish EIWN-R norms, the bateria and the GPA with a limited sample of Puerto Rican children. Thesis (Ph.D.). The Pennsylvania State University. (Cd6606).

Santiago, Angel David, (1988). A study of the effect of jogging on inferred self-concept in a group of college-age return-migrant and non-migrant females. Thesis (Ph.D.). The Pennsylvania State University (Cd6492).

Seilhamer, Emily Stella, (1983) The effects of type of migration on reading achievement in Spanish, physical (somatic) adjustment, school adjustment, and social adjustment on a group of Puerto Rican students. Thesis (Ph.D.)- Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4755)

Torres, Jimmy (1990). The effect of three visual enhancement strategies on learners who possess high and low prior knowledge on specific learning objectives when time on instruction is held constant. Thesis (PhD). Pennsylvania State University (Cd7371)

Torres, Migdalia. (1984) Effect of videotape modules in sensitizing prospective teachers to the problems inherent in the acquisition of knowledge, goal perception of bilingual education, and attitudes toward pre-service training. Thesis (Ph.D.). Pennsylvania State University. (Cd4771)

Newspaper testimonials[edit]

  • Acevedo, M. (24 June 1990). Campus Life: Penn State Bilingual teachers air for posts as principals. The New York Times. New York.
  • Alvarez Jaimes, Y. (March 13, 2011). Resistante a los desastres naturales: El sicologo humanitario Joseph Orlando Prewitt Díaz. "El Vocero". San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Mulero, L. (November 23, 2006). La cara amiga en la cruz del desastre. Vidas únicas—Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz. El Nuevo Día. San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Perez, I. (February 11, 2001) La búsqueda de la sanidad emocional después del sismo. El Diario de Hoy. San Salvador, República de El Salvador.
  • Gibb, T. (September 15, 2001). “he heroes plane”: Memories of brave passengers evoke grief and praise. Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
  • No author. (April 12, 1998). Doctor aides Red Cross in Mississippi. Sunday News. Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Accessed May 27, 2007 from
  • Figueroa-Turpack, M. (July 24, 1996). Hispanic Professor is recognized at Alvernia. La Voz Hispana. P.4. Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  • No author. (July 23, 1996). He listens so Flight 800 can heal. Lancaster New Era. Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Accessed May 27, 2007 from
  • No author. (July 19, 1996). Psychological first aid for TWA victims’families. Lancaster New Era. Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Accessed May 27, 2007 from
  • Hoffner, G.A. (April 26, 1995). Answering the call at bomb site area psychologist will counsel victims and rescue workers. Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Alexander, L. (April 23, 1993). ‘Disaster Joe’ available in times of need. Intelligencer Journal. Profile in the Lifestyle Section for the National Volunteer Week.
  • Schmidt, P. (November 29, 1989). Researchers Propose National Curriculum To Ease Barriers Faced by Migrant Students. Education Week. Washington, D.C.
  • Márquez, N. (May 9, 1975). Loa a un Jibaro. Estampas Típicas: Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz. La Prensa Grafica. Hartford, Connecticut.

See also[edit]


  1. "International humanitarian award: Joseph Orlando Prewitt Díaz". American Psychologist: 818–820. November 2008.
  5. “Latino Leaders will be honored by Gov. Ridge”. (Lancaster. PA, April 5, 1999)
  6. Trustees appointed to the Board for Regional Community Colleges (Hartford Courant, June 29, 1977).
  7. Jaquemet, Iolanda. "Psychological support: luxury or necessity?". Red Cross Red Crescent. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  8. Personal Conversation with Mr. Israel Zuniga, Regional Director Central America Regional Delegation, American Red Cross, July 28, 2010.
  9. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 85 (11): 822. November 2007.
  10. Jacobs, G. (2007). The development and maturation of humanitarian psychology. American Psychologist, 62, 929–941).
  11. American Red Cross (2009). Tsunami Recovery Program: Five-year report. Washington, DC: American Red Cross. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  12. IFRC (2009). Tsunami Five-Year Progress Report 2004–2009. Geneva, Switzerland: IFRC. Retrieved November 4, 2010
  13. Rivera, M. (1997). An annotated bibliography of published materials on Puerto Ricans. Working Paper # 30. East Lansing, MI: Julian Samora Research Institute, Michigan State University.


  1. ^ "International humanitarian award: Joseph Orlando Prewitt Díaz". American Psychologist: 818–820. November 2008. 
  2. ^ Cabrera, A.R. (February 23, 1965). Juventud Internacional participa en Campamento de la Ciudadanía. Suplemento Sabatino, El Mundo, Periódico de Puerto Rico
  3. ^ Samuel Silva Gotay
  4. ^ [Silva Gotay,S. (2010). Que Tiene Que Ver Cayey Con India, Claridad.51,3001,p.30]
  5. ^ Lawson, D.H. (March 3, 1967). An evaluation of training proceedures of Voluntarios en Servicio a Puerto Rico Asociados (VESPRA). Washington, D.C.
  6. ^ a b c d e (Personnel Record, Civil Air Patrol, 2010)
  7. ^ W.K. Kellogg National Fellowship
  8. ^ The Hartford Courant (Mar14, 1973) Educators learn of Puerto Rican culture
  9. ^ (Hartford Courant. “City Educators learn of Puerto Rican Culture” March 21, 1973)
  10. ^ (Hartford Courant, November 22, 1974)
  11. ^ (La Prensa Grafica, March 9, 1975), p.
  12. ^ (La Prensa Grafica, March 9, 1975)
  13. ^ (Intelligencer Journal. “’Disaster Joe’ available in times of need. April 23, 1993)
  14. ^ Johnson, O. (2005). American Red Cross-Volunteer Profile. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  15. ^ Bowencamp, D. (November 15, 1992) Evaluation of Disaster Worker. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  16. ^ Newcomer, S.K. (1994) Performance Review of Disaster Worker. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  17. ^ Smith, P (1995). Performance Review of Disaster Worker. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  18. ^ Bowencamp, D. (1998). Performance Review of Disaster Worker. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  19. ^ Weaver, J. (2001). Disaster Relief Operation-Work Performance Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: Disaster Services Human Resources, American Red Cross
  20. ^ Fonseca m. (September 11, 2011). Memory of the 9/11 haunts PR psychologist. Puerto Rico Daily Sun San Juan, Puerto Rico.3 (1041). p.4.
  21. ^ Psicólogo Cayeyano recuerda su ayuda el 9-11. Inter News Service (September 9, 2011) (
  22. ^ 10 anos después de 11-S--Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz. El Vocero-San Juan, Puerto Rico (8 de septiembre de 2011). Vol. 37, 11562, p. 36.
  23. ^ a b c American Red Cross Tsunami Relief Plan
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ "Gov. Casey to participate in first ethnicity conference." (Press release). PR Newswire. 6 June 1990. "The five recipients of the Heritage Awards are:...Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz, director of Bilingual Education Programs at Penn State University" 
  26. ^
  27. ^ (ISBN 81-89113-00-31)
  28. ^ (ISBN 81-89113-00-3)
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b high beam