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School of Social Work cheers 50th anniversary
October 5, 1998

Social workers are ideally suited to be public advocates, former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums told alumni, staff and students in his keynote address at the School of Social Work's 50th anniversary celebration at the West Hartford campus.

The address by Dellums, a former U.S. representative from California who served for 12 terms, was one of the highlights of the day-long program September 25 that included the announcement of a $250,000 gift to the school from Judith M. Zachs, M.S.W. '77, and her husband, Henry Zachs.

More than 300 alumni attended the event - the largest number ever to return to the campus - to participate in faculty seminars, an open house, and a colloquium of former deans. A luncheon marked 30 years of the school's Black Student Organization; the school's first black professor, Rollin Williams, was recognized; and outstanding alumni were honored.

"You are repositories of knowledge, experience, perception and ideas, almost unchallenged by any other group of people," said Dellums. "Social workers are trained in a superior fashion to be public advocates and to be politicians," he said.

"We are trained to listen with tremendous focus. To hear not only what is being said, but also what is not being spoken," Dellums said. At what better place to be a listener than as a public advocate attempting to right the wrongs and to bend society so it deals with the human condition and enhances the quality of human life, he added.

Dellums, now president of Healthcare International Management Co., was trained as a social worker and was elected to Congress at the height of the Vietnam War. A leader in the Congressional Black Caucus and a decisive voice in shaping national and international public policy, he has an M.S.W. from the University of California-Berkeley.

Social workers understand the human condition, Dellums said. "You have seen human misery that transcends race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and all the lines that divide us. You know how to search, to find, to mobilize, to organize, to coordinate, to unify," he said.

Dellums said he was shaped by the environment and politics of Berkeley in the '60s. "It was unique to any kind of place in this country," he said, "characterized by a diversity and multiplicity of movements, all evolving simultaneously."

The former congressman was also inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he quoted extensively.

Dellums said it is time for America to enter a new level of debate. "You as social workers can participate," he said. "If we have the most extraordinary military force on the face of the earth, and we still have 12 million children living in poverty, 40-some million people without health care, millions of people under-educated, still dealing with the strife of race and violence, AIDS at public health emergency levels - then what are you defending."

A healthy society and economy start with healthy people who are well educated and well informed, Dellums said. "If you accept that, it has enormous implications for how and where the federal government spends its money."

During the anniversary program, the first three inductees to the school's Academy of Distinguished Alumni were honored for their outstanding contributions to the field: Wanda Lou Glasse, M.S.W. '52, former New York State Commissioner on Aging; Sophie Tworkowski, M.S.W. '71, who is director of social work for the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven; and Winston Barrington Johnson, M.S.W. '74, coordinator of social work for the Hartford Public Schools.

During the program, the largest gift in the school's history was announced by President Philip E. Austin. The $250,000 gift from Judith and Henry Zachs will be used to renovate about 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the School of Social Work building to create a community room. Austin said the gift "enriches the school's ability to fulfill its educational and service mission and we are deeply, deeply grateful."

Kay Davidson, dean of the school, read excerpts from a proclamation sent by Gov. John Rowland. A proclamation from the Connecticut State Assembly was read by Sen. Edith Prague, an alumna of the school. Davidson also announced the establishment of a scholarship fund created in memory of Donna Millette-Fridge, M.S.W. '97, "whose death seems to have occurred as a direct result of her professional commitment." Millette-Fridge, a social worker in New London, was recently killed, allegedly by one of her clients.

Sherry Fisher