Dr. Ellery Duke announces retirement

Dr. Ellery Duke announces retirement

June 14, 2016

Ellery Duke, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and executive director of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, has announced his retirement effective December 2016. Duke has maintained a robust clinical caseload for nearly 40 years, and for 37 years also served as the Center’s chief executive.

The Center experienced tremendous development during Duke’s tenure, growing from one therapist and a handful of clients in 1979 – to a multimillion dollar nonprofit organization with 26 counselors serving more than 4,000 individuals annually including children, adolescents, adults, couples and families; and training more than a hundred graduate level psychotherapists since 1980.

Hallmarks of the Center include maintaining respect for the faith and values of each individual while integrating a holistic approach to therapy. The Center’s counseling assistance fund, made possible by strong community support, ensures that all people may access quality counseling including those from low-income households. Additionally, the Center offers robust opportunities for professional education and spiritual development.

“Ellery has created something very special, and he did it by inspiring both staff and clients to believe in the Center’s mission,” said board president Mary Gottschalk. “In a world where the idea of mental health still carries negative stigma, Ellery has been able to attract and empower top-notch professionals to build a highly-respected agency that provides premier psychological services for people from all walks of life.”

Duke encouraged dynamic collaboration among the Center’s staff and stakeholders, keeping the Center on the vanguard of innovation and change. A small sampling of accomplishments follow:

  • 1980: The professional training program is launched to prepare future generations of psychotherapists, partnering with graduate level psychology programs including Drake University, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, fostering a protocol of consultation and continuous learning among all of the Center’s clinicians and staff. 
  • 1990: Specialized services for children and adolescents are launched, COOL (Children Overcoming the Obstacles of Life), integrating art, play and physical movement into counseling. 
  • 1996: A permanent endowment is established. 
  • 2010: An effective capital campaign allows for the groundbreaking of a new facility. 
  • 2011: The Center launches an educational institute to cultivate relationships with congregations and faith leaders, renamed Leadership and Spiritual Life in 2016. 
  • 2012: Ellery Duke bicycles across the U.S. in 30 days to raise awareness and funds for mental health services. 
  • 2016: The 18th Annual Women Helping Women Luncheon, a signature annual event, engaging 500 supporters, raising nearly $117,000 for counseling assistance.

Other innovative clinical services implemented include psychological testing, biofeedback therapy, spiritual direction and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Additionally, the Center provides boundary training for faith leaders and psychological evaluation for clergy candidates in eight religious judicatories.

Duke will retire as the third executive director of the Center, preceded by Dr. Ray Martin and Dr. Richard Guest.

“Over the years, I have been humbled and honored to spend my days with incredibly competent and caring professionals—administrative staff and clinicians—all of whom I hold in the deepest regard,” said Duke. “The Center’s board has provided a holding and nurturing environment that enables the direct caring by staff members. Again, it has been my privilege to meet and work with community-connected people who have expanded my world.”

Almost a half century ago, Duke and his colleagues knew that a caring, trusting relationship was key to emotional healing. Today, their work to advance mental health and holistic wellness remain stunningly relevant. The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center stands strong on solid foundation, prevailing on the forefront of excellence in counseling and education now, and poised to serve the community well into the future.

Following retirement, Duke will spend more time with his family, traveling and riding his bicycle. He also plans to continue with his clinical practice on a part time basis.

Plans are underway to celebrate Duke’s long-term commitment to counseling and education. If you would like to be notified of community commemoration opportunities, please sign up here:

Born and raised in southern Illinois, Duke, holds a master of divinity degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and a doctoral degree in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy from Northwestern University. He is a fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and has been a minister in the United Methodist Church for 50 years. In addition to his leadership duties at the Center, he has provided counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, as well as couples and families. He also consults with faith groups and coaches clergy.


The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization serving more than 4,000 individuals annually including children, adolescents, adults, couples and families. Although best known for its 44 years of quality, professional mental health therapy, the Center is a multi-faceted organization providing a range of services:

  • Counseling, including specialized services for children and adolescents
  • Psychological testing and assessment
  • Psychiatric consultation and care
  • Training for clinical professionals
  • Leadership and spiritual life programming 
  • Career coaching
  • Conflict transformation and strategic planning services for congregations, nonprofits and businesses