Feature

Clinical psychologist Norma Lang Steuerle, PhD, was among the 64 people who died when her flight to Los Angeles crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

American Airlines flight 77 from Washington to Los Angeles was the first leg of a trip Steuerle was taking to Okinawa to reunite with her 28-year-old daughter, Kristin, a Navy doctor, and then to meet her husband, Gene, who was traveling on business in Japan. The three were to embark on a dream trip to Thailand, where Norma and Gene planned to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary.

"She was so full of life that you couldn't help catch her enthusiasm," said Kristin at her mother's memorial service on Sept. 14. "I know that she was in her glory getting onto that plane--I hear her now arriving in Okinawa telling me how she cleverly copped to the front of this line or that, and that she be-bopped into her seat. She was living her dream, as she always did."

Known for her energy, zest for life and sense of humor, Steuerle, 54, relished traveling, spending time at the beach, reading, going out to eat, browsing in stores, decorating her house and driving her Mazda Miata with the top down. Above all she loved her family, and was thrilled to hear from or visit with her children--Kristin and Lynne, 24, who works for an actuarial firm in Philadelphia.

She also enjoyed a deep passion for her work. "Norma was a particularly gifted family therapist," says her business partner Susan Biggs, EdD. She had a unique ability to connect with her clients on a fundamental level, says Biggs. "When you worked with Norma as a client or a colleague, you had her complete and undivided attention."

Steuerle was born in Pittsburgh and attended the University of Dayton and then Carnegie Mellon University, where she graduated at the top of her class with a degree in psychology. She then pursued a master's degree from Temple University and earned her PhD in social psychology in 1975 from the University of Wis-consin, Madison.

In 1974, Steuerle, her husband and their then-infant daughter Kristin moved to Alexandria, Va., when Steuerle accepted an internship at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Her second daughter, Lynne, was born in 1977. Soon afterward, Steuerle established a clinical practice that flourished over the next 20 years.

Those around her say that, with a take-charge attitude, she had an ability to make others feel comfortable. Outside of her numerous clients, she was consistently sought-after for her advice; often others unrelated to her called her "aunt."

Steuerle is also remembered as a vital cog in the wheels of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, which reinforced her spiritual longing for and deep feelings about the "dignity and value of each person," the family added.

Described as a no-nonsense person, Norma Steuerle hated committee meetings, says her husband. But believing that volunteering was the avenue toward getting things done, she chaired events such as an annual high school expo as well as her church's early childhood center.

Said to love diversity, "she would not want a message of hate and exclusion to come out of this," says Biggs. It would have been important to her to not point fingers, she adds.

Further Reading

In honor of Norma Lang Steuerle, PhD, "Gender Issues and ADHD--Research, Diagnosis, & Treatment," a one-day training seminar, will be held on Friday, Dec. 7, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. All proceeds from the seminar will be donated to charity in Steuerle's name. Renowned experts in the field, clinical psychologist Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, and developmental pediatrician Patricia Quinn, MD, will lead the event. To register or for more information, call (301) 495-2307, (888) 238-8588 or visit http://www.addvance.com.