Longtime Philadelphia psychologist Geraldine “Gerrie” Kovsky Lincoln Grossman, who transitioned from a career as a truancy officer, died on April 30 in her daughter’s home. She was 98.
Lincoln Grossman, who was a member of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, helped shape the landscape of psychology in Philadelphia in the 1960s.
From 1973 to 1978, Lincoln Grossman was in charge of training at Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center of Pennsylvania Hospital and was a supervisor at Hahnemann University Hospital during the same period. She began a family therapy practice and helped found the Family Institute of Philadelphia, where she was a trainer and a supervisor, according to her granddaughter, Martha Lincoln.
Lincoln Grossman was a member of the American Psychological Association and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, a charter member of the American Family Therapy Association, and a member of the Commission of Supervision of the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy.
She didn’t begin her career as a psychologist, as her relationship with psychology began when she was a truancy officer.
Her job then was to track students’ attendance and ensure they didn’t miss too many classes. But Lincoln Grossman soon discovered something that would change her life and the lives of hundreds of others.
“She found she was more interested in why the kids weren’t going to school, not that they weren’t going to school,” her daughter, Stephanie Lincoln, said.
That motivated Lincoln Grossman to return to school where she pursued her master’s degree in clinical psychology at Temple University. She previously studied economics at Goucher College and attended Bryn Mawr College.
Lincoln Grossman was proud of her work, her education and her sense of fashion.
“She loved fashion, picking out the right outfits. She was like Marilyn Monroe, fabulous,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln Grossman also loved to draw and paint, specializing in portraits. But her biggest passion was in people.
Lincoln Grossman’s work with her patients was important to her and fulfilling because of her deep sense of compassion and a desire to get to know everyone.
Daniel Gottlieb, an area psychologist and author, shared a story about the beginning of their friendship.
“Shortly after I started working with her, my wife developed cancer, and we had two little girls. I was going to the hospital every day, coming home and taking care of my girls and still going to work every day. One day, Gerrie asked me how I was. I answered in the same way I answered everyone else,” he said.
“I told her that my wife was doing OK and that she was recovering from her surgery and that my girls were also doing well. But Gerrie surprised me with her response: ‘No, I want to know how you are.’ I hadn’t even thought about how I was until she asked that question, and I burst into tears. And she held me.”
Gottlieb studied under Lincoln Grossman at the Family Institute, where the two became lifelong friends.
“She was my teacher, my mentor, my therapist, my role model and my precious friend. And she was all of those things every day of those 50 years,” Gottlieb said in a tribute written about Lincoln Grossman.
Lincoln Grossman overcame her own battle with cancer after being diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in her 70s.
“She thought that was it; I begged her to fight it,” Lincoln said.
After beating cancer, Lincoln Grossman went on to practice for another 30 years.
“She was practicing until she was 97. You couldn’t make her quit,” her daughter said.
Lincoln Grossman was born on Nov. 17, 1923, to Benjamin and Anne Kovsky. She married William Lincoln in 1946, and they had two children, Bruce and Stephanie. The couple divorced in 1969. Lincoln Grossman married Roy Grossman Jr. in 1973; he died in 2006.
Her daughter described her as comforting and fun, saying that she never made anyone feel bad.
“She taught me that no matter how bad I was feeling at the moment to say ‘eh.’ [And] don’t catastrophize,” Stephanie Lincoln said.
After a fall last year in which she was injured, Lincoln Grossman moved into The Quadrangle, an assisted living facility. However, when COVID-19 became more rampant, she moved in with her daughter for safety and comfort.
“We busted her out of there when COVID hit,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln Grossman is survived by her children, Bruce and Stephanie; two granddaughters; two great-granddaughters; three step-sons, Owen, John and Derek Grossman; and two step-grandchildren.