Vivian Loseth

In Memoriam: Vivian Veneeda Cook Loseth, AM '69

Headshot of Vivian LosethVivian Loseth, alumna of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and retired Executive Director of Youth Guidance, passed away on September 2, 2020 after suffering a massive stroke.

As founding director of the Chicago Comer School Development Program and national faculty for the Comer SDP, Yale Child Study Center, Ms. Loseth helped school districts develop strength-based approaches to social emotional learning and improve youth outcomes.

She facilitated a dynamic culture of collaboration and innovation at Youth Guidance supporting the development of highly acclaimed programs such as Becoming A Man (BAM) which has won praise from the highest offices in the land - including the Congressional Black Caucus and President Barack Obama.

Ms. Loseth received honors and awards from the UChicago SSA, the National Association of Social Workers, the Golden Apple Scholars, and Northwestern's Family Institute among many others.

Ms. Loseth is survived by her husband Per and daughter Eva.

Youth Guidance has created a video in her honor.


 The following is a profile that was written about Ms. Loseth for SSA's Centennial in 2008:

“My SSA experience has been a tremendous asset. The experience helped me to become more self aware, and what SSA demanded of me helped me to grow professionally and personally. The skill set I gained was so varied and rich that it helped me not just in my current job, but it also taught me to understand others. Relationship building is critical to collective problem solving, and SSA prepared me well for that.”

Vivian Loseth is the Executive Director of Youth Guidance, one of Chicago’s oldest and most established nonprofit social service agencies. Its mission is to create and implement school-based programs that enable at-risk children to overcome obstacles, focus on their education, and, ultimately, to succeed in school and in life.

Ms. Loseth grew up in a small town in Alabama. She attended college in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her work experience in Chicago prior to graduate school was with the Division of Mental Health (within the Illinois Department of Human Services). “In that job, I worked with clients who had a whole range of mental health problems, and realized that I needed to have more training and education. I read about the work of Helen Harris Perlman, and that encouraged me to come to SSA. Once I arrived in Chicago, I realized there were several other academic giants on campus, such as Bruno Bettelheim, Laura Epstein and later, SSA current dean Jeanne Marsh. I felt privileged in being exposed to people who inspired me.”

“I completed my fieldwork at the Chicago Childcare Society. In my second week, I was working with a group of pregnant girls who were preparing to give their children up for adoption, and one of the girls went into labor. My field instructor told me to drive her to the hospital, and while I was so anxious that we would not make it to the hospital, I remember that she was calm. The experience taught me that young people are tremendously resilient. I see it now in our practice and deep down I know that it is so much more beneficial to work and capitalize on strengths instead of focusing on deficits.”

After SSA, Ms. Loseth worked at the Division of Mental Health before she joined Youth Guidance, where she has worked for over 30 years. “Nancy Johnstone (AM '54) hired me for my first job at Youth Guidance, and today she is Executive Director of Chicago Childcare Society, where I had my first field placement,” said Ms. Loseth. “I was never one of those people with a five-year plan. I really just found my home at Youth Guidance.”

Ms. Loseth consults with private agencies and the Chicago Public Schools. She is also a regular presenter on the topics of family systems, child centered schools, and full service educational programs at national conferences and forums.

In 1990, Ms. Loseth helped found the Chicago Comer School Development Program and for the past twelve years has participated in the annual training at the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University. “I heard Dr. James Comer speak more than 25 years ago, and thought that this is what the children of Chicago needed,” she recalls.

Ms. Loseth received a post-graduate certificate from the Family Institute at Northwestern University. She has also received many honors over her long career, including the Golden Apple Award for Supporting Family Involvement in Education. She has been honored at the Congressional Black Caucus and was named Social Worker of the Year in 2007 by the Chicago District of the National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter.

“I believe that SSA stays on the cutting edge because it is responsive to changes in the world, locally and nationally. It attracts scholarly people who care about helping to make this a better planet, and its grand local and national reputation will remain because of the extraordinary work done here by inspiring educators and students.”