Remembering Annette Urso Rickel

We are saddened at the loss of Dr. Annette Urso Rickel. She passed away quietly on Sunday, November 21, 2021. Through her contributions to psychology, education, and philanthropy, she has impacted countless students and educators, and will continue to do so through her eponymous foundation. Her passion for STEM education will have far reaching effects for many years to come.

Dr. Rickel was a teacher at her core — she loved teaching. She believed that students in the U.S. had enormous untapped potential to continue to be leaders in the math and sciences, and spent the last two decades of her life fighting to grow these disciplines. It is our honor to continue building what she started, and to help bring more students and educators into her bold vision.

She built a foundation benefiting countless teachers and students

A practicing psychologist, professor, and a decades-long philanthropist, Annette Urso Rickel had a clear-eyed perspective on how she could improve the nation’s education system. In her last two decades, she became laser-focused on improving mathematics and science opportunities for the United States. Dr. Rickel, age 80, of Palm Beach, Florida passed away on Sunday, November 21, 2021.

Dr. Rickel was born April 6, 1941 in Philadelphia, PA to Marguerite Urso and Ralph Francis. She attended Michigan State University and went on to the University of Michigan, where she earned an MD and a Ph.D. in 1972. She started her practice with the Northeast Guidance Center in Detroit and began teaching with Wayne State University in 1975. 

As a professor, Dr. Rickel was active in clinical research, securing grants from the National Institute of Health, the Eloise & Richard Webber Foundation, and the McGregor Fund throughout the late 1970s. In the following decade, she secured grants from the David M. Whitney Fund and the Katherine Tuck Fund. Through this work, she developed a series of books on teenage pregnancy, parenting, and women’s psychological care. Dr. Rickel was made a full professor of Wayne State in 1987 and joined Georgetown University in Washington as a clinical professor in 1995. 

In 2005, Dr. Annette Urso Rickel became a practicing professor of psychology at Cornell Medical College. During this time she served as Education Programs Officer for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and was responsible for the Fund’s Fellowship Program for Students of Color as well as grantmaking for other educational priorities. 

In addition to her prominent leadership in psychology, she served on the American Council on Education at Princeton University and Rutgers University. Dr. Rickel was a former president of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Society. In 1992, she was awarded a Senior Congressional Fellowship and served with the U.S. Senate as a member of the public policy staff of U.S. Senator Donald W. Riegle, Jr. At the same time, she was appointed to President Clinton’s Task Force for National Health Care Reform. Dr. Rickel maintained a fellowship with the American Psychological Association, the International Women’s Forum, the Society for Research in Child Development, the Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, the International Association of Applied Psychologists, and the honor societies Sigma Xi and Psi Chi. 

Dr. Rickel made substantial contributions to advancing education, policy, and philanthropy in the United States. In the late 1990’s Dr. Rickel turned her focus to philanthropy. She began working on her own eponymous foundation in 1999 and joined the Rockefeller Foundation as a program officer from 2000 to 2003. Through her foundation, she was able to provide hundreds of teaching scholarships to increase teaching opportunities in the United States. She believed that the educational system represented the foundation of the United States.

“Her work late in life was focused on the advancement of math and sciences in education,” said Jay Rickel-Finnegan, son of the late Dr. Rickel, and current president of the Annette Urso Rickel Foundation. “She saw math and sciences as key to solving the United States struggle to keep up with the rest of the world in STEM-related fields and wanted to guide the next generation into these areas of focus. Her foundation has helped numerous individuals and organizations promote STEM and STEAM education and we will continue to follow in her footsteps.”