Born September 22, 1948, Raphell Sims Lakowitz attended New York City public schools. She was an honor student and an active member of the student body. Early on, responding to her innate warmth and compassion, Raphell chose to be a psychologist. As a psychology major at Queens College, Raphell was selected to participate in special seminars and research projects at Brooklyn State Hospital and Biometric Laboratories.
Her volunteer work at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center was instrumental in establishing an ongoing student volunteer program at that institution. This program helped to break down long standing barriers between the community and hospitalized patients. As a supervised undergraduate student, Raphell worked with all types of patients and all types of professionals at Creedmoor. After being trained, she conducted group therapy sessions with chronic schizophrenics.
Continuing on the career path established at an early age, Raphell enrolled in the New School for Social Research following graduation from Queens College. Here, she earned a Master’s Degree in psychology and completed the course work for her Ph.D. She was awarded a National Defense Education Act Fellowship and was one of the three students nominated for the National Science Foundation Award.
As a graduate student, Raphell worked with emotionally disturbed adolescents at Hillside Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and was involved in research in Prenatal Project conducted at Harlem Hospital, which she published in the Journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.
Raphell was an associate member of the American Psychological Association, the New York State Chapter of the American Psychological Association, and a member of the Society for Research in Child Development.
Following completion of her graduate studies, Raphell entered private psychotherapy practice. She was engaged in practice until 1978, when she died of an aneurysm, at the age of 29.
“Raphell” – The Story of a Statue
by Lenore and Irving Lakowitz
The statue shown above was dedicated on October 26, 1983, at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens Village, N.Y., before a distinguished group of government, community, and mental health leaders. The statue memorializes Raphell Sims Lakowitz, who died suddenly of an aneurysm in 1978. She was 29. She was our only child.
In 1969, while she was at Queens College, Raphell decided it was not enough to study psychology out of books. She wanted to experience what it is really like to work with the mentally afflicated.
She convinced a friend to join her-and she and her friend were the first student volunteers to walk into the office of Rita Amatulli, Director of Volunteers at Creedmoor, to offer their help. Up to that time, volunteer work in mental health facilities had been done only by adults.
During the first year she worked there, Raphell brought 62 friends from Queens College to volunteer at Creedmoor. Patients and staff loved her.
Because of Raphell’s leadership, a whole new way of working with patients developed throughout the field of mental health.
Her convictions so touched the hearts of those with whom she had contact that her spirit continues to be an inspiration. Because of Raphell’s concern with people who suffer disabilities of any nature, we have endeavored to continue her life’s work in many areas, particularly at Creedmoor where she devoted herself as a volunteer serving the mentally afflicted.
The statue, “Raphell,” is the culmination of an idea and vision which formed in Lenore Lakowitz’s mind in 1979 because of an offer made to us by Creedmoor to help beautify a large reflecting pool on the institution’s grounds in memory of Raphell.
The pool is located in front of the institution’s community center, which was redesignated as the “Raphell Sims Lakowitz Community Activity Center.”
We felt that a statue of Raphell, symbolizing her spirit, would be appropriate in that it would create visual beauty that would bring light and joy into the lives of the residents and all others who view it. We hoped it would inspire more public interest in mental health.
To create the statue, we engaged the world famous sculptor, Bruno Lucchesi, whose works are on display in countries around the world.
The concept we brought to Mr. Lucchesi-and which he executed-involved a figure in Raphell’s likeness with her arms outstretched, standing near rocks, water flowing from the rocks onto her hands symbolizing Raphell’s radiant spirit of giving love and energy.
Shortly before she died, Raphell wrote a beautiful poem to Barry, the young man she was about to marry. Two lines from that poem, which capture so well her spirit, were the inspiration for the design of the statue. These lines appear on the plaque set into the rim of the reflecting pool.
Lakowitz applicants may apply in April-May each year. To apply for the Lakowitz Award, please complete and submit this form to the Psychology Dept office.