Lorraine Peeler '88, professor at the college in the areas of community and human services and human development. Photo/Empire State College
Lorraine Peeler '88 was well-known in the Buffalo area as a pastor, teacher, counselor, researcher, HIV/AIDS advocate, workshop leader and author, as well as being a respected professor at the college in the areas of community and human services and human development.
“The passing of Lorraine Peeler is a great loss for Empire State College and I offer my deepest sympathy to her family and the greater Buffalo and Western New York communities,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of SUNY Empire State College. “An outstanding and well-respected member of the Empire State College community and human services faculty, Lorraine’s positive impact mentoring and teaching the college’s nontraditional students is perhaps only surpassed by her commitment to the community where she lived and worked. Lorraine’s life enriched the college community and her legacy will continue to be a source of inspiration for us all.”
She was active in the African-American community and in her church her entire life. A strong woman of faith, Dean Nan DiBello noted that Peeler was able to balance her differing roles within the college and community.
Lorraine E. Peeler ’88 stands in the middle of the back row at an 2012 event honoring Buffalo-area alumni. With her are Carlos M. Benitez ’03 and Mark J. F. Schroeder ’82, at left, and Dennis J. Richards ’00, ’01, ’12, and George K. Arthur ’77 to her right. Standing in the front row, from left to right, are Nan L. Haynes ’88, Dean Nan DiBello and Janet Falk ’88, ’90, ’94.
“It was very clear to me that her deep commitment to the local community was an integral part of her career. Lorraine’s mentoring, research, community and spiritual interests intersected and enriched her work with students, colleagues, and the community,” DiBello said.
In addition to pastoring a growing church in East Buffalo, Peeler developed programs, resources and trainings that were culturally competent to address the needs of diverse groups, particularly in family services. She was active in creating and assisting in programs to secure grant funding for HIV/AIDS, substance-abuse recovery and support programs and a Minority Health Referral Initiative. She volunteered as a consultant to Group Ministries, which oversaw a program serving local residents with HIV/AIDS, helping to ensure that funds provided by the New York State AIDS Institute remained in the local community.
She was the founder and CEO of Bright Options Family Services, a faith-based, culturally sensitive organization whose mission was to help repair “broken” families.
In the summer of 2001, Peeler spearheaded a cross-cultural outreach initiative with her peers in South Africa, addressing HIV/AIDS and community empowerment, which culminated in the South African counterparts visiting Buffalo, coming together for a large conference that drew ministers, nurses, teachers and community leaders from both countries.
Peeler’s expertise was applied in other places as well. She was invited to create diversity training programs for law enforcement in Jasper, Texas, after the racially motivated dragging death of James Byrd, a black man.
During her career, Peeler developed and presented many specialized training programs that addressed human resources issues, grief among lay clergy, ethics, diversity, anger management and many other topics.
Peeler, who authored numerous scholarly papers and book chapters, was an alumna of Empire State College, having earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Development in 1988. She furthered her education by earning an M.Ed. in College Counseling and Student Personnel (1990), and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education (1995) at SUNY Buffalo.
She began her career at Empire State College as adjunct faculty, while at the same time working as a part-time counselor in a transitional program for those with mental-health issues from 1991–1996. She was appointed assistant dean for assessment at the center in 1996 and served until 1998, when she was appointed assistant professor. In 2011, Peeler was promoted to the rank of associate professor. She earned tenure in 2011.
Among other awards, she received the Jane and Wally Altes Prize for Exemplary Community Service in 2005.