Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Kathleen Walls '85

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Kathleen Walls '85

In her own words, Dr. Kathleen Walls ’85 is “100 percent Montessori minded in everything” that she does. As a psychologist, professor, strategic advisor, author, film festival founder, and yes, even as a certified dog groomer, the NFA lifer approaches any new challenge with the independent spirit of a true Montessorian.

“I laugh at myself today in the way that I work,” said Walls, a lifer who began her educational journey in NFA’s Montessori Preschool Program. “[Montessori] was a perfect fit for me in the sense of really engaging me fully and what has my attention at the moment to completion before shifting to that next subject project. I still work that way today, without question.

“I remember being in preschool and being given options and being asked, ‘where do I want to go first?’ and knowing that I could choose,” added Walls. “So, just even that recognition that you have choices and options in life; and that you can make decisions as opposed to someone deciding everything for you. And knowing that once you made that decision, then there’s the follow through and the commitment to that decision until it’s time to make a new decision. That is foundational for me now.”

With that fearless approach to learning and life, Walls has achieved incredible success in her life. To begin, Walls is the owner and founder of the G.R.E.A.T.E.S.T. Counseling & Consulting, located in Philadelphia. She is also a strategic business partner with the national leadership development firm TAGA Consulting. Walls, who went on to Mount Saint Joseph Academy following her days at NFA, graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. At Chestnut Hill College, she earned her Masters in Counseling Psychology and Human Services with a Specialization in Child and Adolescent Therapy as well as her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.).

Walls returned to Chestnut Hill College in May of 2022 where she was the commencement speaker for the School of Graduate Studies, the final commencement ceremony during Sister Carol Jean Vale’s incredible tenure as President of Chestnut Hill College. She shared the stage with Megan Maguire Nicoletti ’82, who was the recipient of an honorary degree.

“It was a tremendous honor,” said Walls. “I thought about Sister James Anthony, who was the principal when I was at NFA as a child, and Sister Helen, who was also the principal, and just all my teachers. Just to know that here, Sister Carol Jean Vale, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and all the St. Joe’s nuns who have poured into me—that moment for me I was really the manifestation of their dream, and then to share the stage with Megan Maguire, who received an honorary doctorate and who was also an NFA was such an amazing moment.”

Believe it or not, Walls began map- ping out her journey in psychology as a sixth grade student on The Fontbonne Campus during career day. She asked the mother of her friend, Kate Kennedy ’85, about the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, which put the wheels in motion.

“My grandfather was an M.D. and my father was a veterinarian so I knew I was going to be a doctor—I just didn’t know what type of doctor I wanted to be,” said Walls. “I had always been told that I listened very well and I gave good advice. So, it was in that moment that she explained the difference to me and I said, ‘and I still get to be a doctor?’ And, she was like, ‘yeah!’ In my mind I’m going, ‘alright, I’ll be the first female doctor in the family—that works. And that was it. I was locked in from that moment.”

Over the course of her career, Walls has married her love of psychology with her other passions, and as a result, her work has taken her all over the country and the world, including a stint as an adjunct professor at Weber University’s campus in Accra, Ghana.

Walls even launched a film festival called the Piton International Film Festival with her husband, Ed Umoja Herman, in his native St. Lucia, which has opened up doors to collaborations with filmmakers in Uganda, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. In this forum, Walls has the opportunity to blend her brilliance as a teacher and psychol- ogist as films touch on sensitive topics, or as she coaches emerging artists.

Walls has also written several books, including a new children’s book series entitled Bunnie Gets Bullied, which is part of her series called The Adventures of Froggy-T & Bunnie – A Hip Hop Tale.

“When I write, I really want to give the reader the words because in therapy, that’s really about teaching people how to express their thoughts and feelings,” said Walls.

If that’s not enough, Walls converted her father’s animal clinic into Greene Street Animal Care and even went back to school to become a certified dog groomer.

So what will Walls do next? Only time will tell, but you can rest assured that she will dive in headfirst with the curiosity and tenacity of an NFA Montessorian.