Twenty years ago, 156 people died as the result of the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 at Detroit Metro Airport. Fortunately a year earlier, Lynne O’Loughlin DeGrande had worked with the Red Cross to develop a response plan for such an emergency. Within hours of the crash, the Detroit Chapter of the American Red Cross called Lynne to the scene where she remained for over a week, leading a team of counselors, coordinating services to the families and providing support to first responders. This was one of the crises that reinforced her personal creed: “We never realize how strong the human spirit is until we need it to be.”
According to her classmate Pam Meneely McKulka ’67, “The NWA crash and the crisis intervention services Lynne provided there were a turning point in her professional career. In the twenty years since, she has been called to numerous “critical incidents,” including earthquakes, hurricanes, other air crashes and work-site homicides in several states.”
Lynne was summoned to the incredible disaster at New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Dr. Richard Ottenstein says, “At that time Lynne worked directly with me in managing and providing direct crisis support to the construction workers at ‘ground zero’... and demonstrated herself to be innovative, compassionate and calm working in conditions of tremendous stress and danger.”
Employee Assistance Programs are relatively new in the corporate world and were established to deal with substance abuse and mental health problems. Earning a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan in addition to her Marygrove degree enabled Lynne to start her own business and to contract with corporations to provide employee assistance. At General Motors, she was sought out by senior leadership to provide both group and individual support and by employees at every level for individual support, according to Dr. Larry Godfrey of GM University. She has continued to operate her own counseling and therapy practice and also works part-time in a hospital setting.
“In individual work with clients overwhelmed by relationship turmoil, financial strife, serious child development problems, chronic progressive medical issues, job stress or the ravages of addictions, Lynne remains calm, is a quick study and a ready advocate, moving toward problem solving and respectful intervention,” writes Nancy Schultheis-Krebs, a colleague at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Trinity Health System. She cites Lynne’s expertise in handling “Critical Incident Stress Management,” responding to situations where employees have witnessed terror, death and catastrophe.
She can call on personal experience in helping others manage stress and tragedy, having lost her husband to cancer after a two -and-a-half-year battle and coped with the deaths of her firstborn son, four siblings as well as her parents. She married again to Bob Hackathorn, who had also lost his spouse to cancer. Together they have four adult children and two grandchildren. She continues to use DeGrande as her professional name.
As a member of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Association’s board of directors (1994-2000), Lynne saw a new service opportunity within the association’s mission of honoring service men and women. During Operation Desert Storm, she developed a support group for family members of service personnel who were serving abroad. Board President Mark R. Weber remembers that Lynne showed great compassion as she facilitated this group of moms, dads, sisters, brothers and friends week after week. “She gave hope, a compassionate ear and an opportunity for those involved to feel as though they were not alone in their worry, grief and fear,” says Dr. Weber. He believes that Lynne exemplifies the mission statement of Marygrove College and in this role went beyond the usual role of governance.
Lynne advises today’s students: “Be very clear and strong about what values you hold because life will often challenge them. Above all, our love and respect for God, self and others should be our guiding force. And don’t forget to have some fun every day.”
She inserts fun in her own life, boating on Lake St. Clair, dancing and “hanging out with my husband, family and friends.”
Humbled by the Distinguished Alumni award, Lynne says “Marygrove reinforced in me the value and duty to be of service to others whether on a personal or professional level. So I believe this is what influenced me to become a social worker and therapist.”