Sharon L. Telleen, PhD, has had a strong affinity and concern for children since her own childhood in Washington, D.C., where she saw young people benefit from the many good works of her church and caring community groups. Such memories planted the seed for her desire as an adult to create a supportive and healthy environment for children by focusing on education and psychology. She first prepared herself, earning a Bachelor of Arts in education with a minor in psychology from Augustana College in 1968. She then studied at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she completed a Master of Education in 1969 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1976, writing her dissertation on memory processing in children.
A sought-after authority for decades, Dr. Telleen, is a research associate professor emerita in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she taught from 1984 to 2011. She has been a researcher and licensed psychologist since 1982, is published in more than 70 publications, is the author of the book “Transition from Welfare to Work: Challenges and Outcomes,” and has conducted collaborative book chapter research with the American Public Health Association. Now spending much of her time mentoring students, leading special public health projects, writing, and public speaking, Dr. Telleen fondly recalls how she began her career teaching students in multiple grade levels, as young as kindergarteners, at public schools. She also taught summer school and at a military school.
Lauded for possessing unparalleled dedication throughout the years, Dr. Telleen, a present or past member and leader of a litany of groups in her field and in community organizations, served on the Conference for Families with The White House from 1979 to 1990. She was later honored for her work in public health by Delta Omega in 1996 when she was admitted into the honorary society. In addition, between 2000 and 2023, she has received multiple, and some repeat, Marquis Who’s Who accolades, including the Marquis Humanitarian Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award; named Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who of Professional Women twice, and Who’s Who of Top Professionals; and been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Millenium, and Insight Slip magazines as well as in The Wall Street Journal. Further, she is the namesake of her own Dr. Telleen Scholarship Award.
Alongside the public recognition, Dr. Telleen is equally proud and humbled to have received grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control. Moreover, she has been involved in work made possible by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, which allowed her to examine the leading causes of children’s death, injury, and adverse outcomes. During this eight-year project, Dr. Telleen and colleagues looked at all counties in Illinois and developed a database that tracked women who had very low incomes and who received Medicaid and other state services. The project was then expanded statewide and is still being used today under the name Cornerstone. Dr. Telleen also performed vital work in a major violence prevention project titled Safe Schools, Healthy Students, that still exists after starting as a six-year, community-wide initiative for preschool through high school students in an area of Chicago.
Crediting her “very supportive family” and a mentor for her success, Dr. Telleen was greatly influenced by her parents, Floyd and Louise Anderson. Her father served as a professional naval engineer in the United States Navy, and her mother was an activist and volunteer. Married to Philip R. Telleen, Dr. Telleen is the mother of Paul Telleen and Katherine Telleen Stebe, and grandmother of Dylan Telleen, Cassidy Telleen, George Philip Stebe, and Emily Ingrid. James “Jim” G. Kelly was her professional mentor and a pioneer in the field of community psychology after World War II.
Additionally, Dr. Telleen remembers how, early in her journey, Washington, D.C., was a magnet for people who visited from many parts of the world, expanding her view, and offering her a wealth of invaluable experiences as a scholar in close proximity to the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. The nation’s capital city also is where she was taught community service and participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Telleen’s commitment to service and volunteering for causes close to her heart have remained constant in her life, from having stood up for American Indians during college to her ongoing, deep involvement in the Luther Church.