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A clinical psychologist who practices in Harrisonburg and teaches at James Madison University, Joann Hess Grayson is an advocate for abused and neglected children.


  • Photograph of Joann Grayson, courtesy of James Madison University.
  • Photograph of Joann Grayson, courtesy of James Madison University.
  • The Library of Virginia honored Joann Grayson as one of its Virginia Women in History in 2009.
  • The Virginia Women in History Digital Trail is made possible by the Library of Virginia and American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619–2019.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Joann Hess Grayson (born 1948) received a doctorate in clinical psychology at Washington University, in Saint Louis, Missouri. In 1976 she joined the faculty of Madison College (James Madison University after 1977). Focusing on issues of child abuse and neglect and family violence, Grayson received a grant in 1980 to establish the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Family Support Center. She also founded First Step, a shelter for abused women, and helped set up a fund for foster children with special needs.

A nationally recognized expert in her field, Grayson has edited and published the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter since 1981. She has also written more than eighty articles and book chapters. From 1983 to 1993, Grayson sat on the Governor's Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, for four years as its chair. In 2001 she testified before a congressional committee to lobby for reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to continue funding prevention efforts, research, and training for mental health professionals.  As an educator Grayson emphasizes learning through service. She established the psychology department's field placement program, through which hundreds of students have contributed thousands of service hours to the Harrisonburg community under her supervision. Recognized for her achievements, she received one of Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Awards in 2004 and in 2006 was named Virginia Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Her dedication to teaching incorporates sharing the history of child advocacy with younger students, including Amy D. Garrett's fourth-grade class at Island Creek Elementary School, in Alexandria, which nominated Grayson as one of the Virginia Women in History for 2009.

Reprinted with permission of the Library of Virginia.