Department of Psychological + Brain Sciences
“What a gift it was to come to Indiana,” said former psychology and English major Michael McRaith.
On January 29 McRaith returned to IU to accept the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU GLBT Alumni Association. He also stopped by PBS to talk to chair Bill Hetrick and a group of PBS students.
It was at IU, McRaith recalled, that he first began to realize his passion for addressing major public issues and seized the opportunities around him: First in his fraternity, then on the intra-fraternity council and finally on the student association, where he became the leader of government relations. He first stood before the state legislature on its behalf to support anti-hazing legislation.
“To walk into my abnormal psychology class and to hear him say that there is nothing abnormal about being gay was incredibly powerful.”
Before long he was seeking out larger and larger spheres of influence. A lawyer by training, he formerly served as the Illinois insurance commissioner and is proud of the work he did there with respect to health insurance reform, even before the Affordable Care Act became law. Currently McRaith is the director of the newly formed Federal Insurance Office in the U.S. Treasury Department, representing the insurance sector in the national and international arena.
The path of discovery and self-realization at IU included more than the seeds of this substantial career in public life. The ideas in the classroom also paved the way for an affirmation of an identity that he would only later come to fully accept. He conveyed the powerful influence of his clinical psychology professor Richard Young.
“To walk into my abnormal psychology class and to hear him say that there is nothing abnormal about being gay was incredibly powerful.” This, at a time when AIDS was ravaging gay communities in cities across the U.S. and a deafening silence surrounded the struggle for gay rights and recognition.
Yet out of his experiences comes a hard-won wisdom pertinent to anyone, gay or straight, which he was eager to pass on to students: “Be yourself. Trust yourself. Get involved.”
Psychological + Brain Sciences