Closing Out 175 Years of Service

Graduate School of Social Work celebrates legacy of six colleagues

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

The six colleagues' years of service add up to 175, but numbers do not measure or describe their importance to the Graduate School of Social Work, and Boston College.

These three men and three women represent an era that reaches clear back to GSSW's pre-Chestnut Hill days, and also encompasses the school's emergence as a modern, nationally recognized presence in the social work field - thanks, in no small part, to their contributions.

Now, a transition looms for the six colleagues and the school.

With the close of this academic year, Dean June Gary Hopps, Associate Dean Albert Hanwell, Prof. Richard Mackey, Assoc. Prof. Robert Castagnola, Adj. Prof. Elaine Pinderhughes and Administrative Coordinator Josephine Connors all will officially have ended their full-time affiliation with GSSW, leaving their years of service as a legacy and, they hope, a secure foundation for the school's future.

Tomorrow, April 28, GSSW will conclude a weeklong salute to the six with a reception from 4-6 p.m. in Gargan Hall of Bapst Library. Hopps, who in December announced her decision to step down after 24 years as dean, will be honored by Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, and the University vice presidents on Wednesday, May 10, in the Lower Campus Dining Hall.

Graduate School of Social Work Dean June Gary Hopps and Associate Dean Albert Hanwell are two of six long-time GSSW colleagues who are stepping down at the end of this academic year. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

If success stems from the work of many hands, University administrators say, then there is ample evidence of the six's contributions. One exhibit is GSSW's 19th-place finish in this year's US News & World Report ranking of the nation's top graduate social work programs - the third time in as many surveys by the magazine that the school has been among the top 20. GSSW faculty also ranked 10th in the most recent national study on publication productivity done by the Journal of Social Work Education.

During Hopps' administration, the school also established a doctoral program - still a rarity at the time among social work schools - and innovative joint degree programs with the Carroll School of Management, Law School and Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry that promote the interdisciplinary character of social work.

"The work all six have done for the school and the University community is exemplary," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser, "and the administrative leadership team of June Hopps and Bert Hanwell in particular deserves praise. What they have achieved is remarkable."

This semester has been one of reflection for the six, a time to contemplate the accomplishments derived from this meshing of varied backgrounds, experiences and temperaments. It is also an appropriate occasion, they say, to mark the transition from one generation of social work to another.

"I think we pulled together one heck of a cabinet," said Hopps in a recent interview. "What you learn by working at a school and a university like this is, truly, no man is an island. I've always appreciated the zest and the civility as much as the professionalism of the people I've worked with, and Bert, Dick, Bob, Elaine and Jo are the finest examples."

"June has done so much for the school, but perhaps the most important thing is she's built a strong, dynamic faculty, equally outstanding in teaching and research," said Hanwell, a 1949 graduate who earned a master's degree from GSSW in 1952 and returned as a faculty member 10 years later.

Like Castagnola and Mackey, Hanwell first joined GSSW when the school was housed at 126 Newbury Street (it moved to Chestnut Hill in 1968). After Hopps' arrival, he took on more administrative responsibilities until he was appointed assistant dean in 1985, then associate dean in 1992.

Hopps and Hanwell are quick to credit their fellow honorees. They praise Mackey's work as inaugural director of the doctoral program and Pinderhughes' widely cited writings on race and poverty issues in social work, for example. They also point to Castagnola's efforts in exploring the spiritual aspects of social work, and Connors' management of the daily and weekly demands that have grown along with the school's reputation.

Administrators and faculty, meanwhile, say Hopps and Hanwell complemented one another in style and approach, even background. A native of Florida who was active in the 1960s civil rights movement, Hopps brought a fresh perspective to the school, while Hanwell, who grew up in pre-World War II Dorchester, was steeped in the BC-GSSW tradition. That partnership, colleagues say, has helped GSSW to anticipate and respond to new directions in social work.

"The field has changed so much in the last two decades," Mackey explained, "what with the arrival of licensing and the resulting growth of private practice, followed by the advent of managed care. A social worker starting out in this day and age has far different concerns than we did, but the school has been able to rise to the challenge and meet those needs."

Castagnola said, "We're positioned to train a more sophisticated and knowledgeable social worker, able to intervene at a number of levels. It's a time that calls for a social worker who is as versed in the use of technology as in the importance of social justice. Under June and Bert, the school has encouraged the multidisciplinary approach, and this will be vital for the years ahead."

"They are talented colleagues," Pinderhughes said, "and I feel honored to have worked with them."

The six will not completely end their association with GSSW or the University - Mackey, for example, plans to return to teach a course after a one-year leave. But they fully recognize that an end of an era is at hand.

"Someone here the other day said to me, 'I don't know what we'll do without you,' then paused and added, 'Or what you'll do without us,'" said Castagnola, whose 38 years of service are the longest of the six. "That's certainly the way I look at it. It's been a wonderful 38-year affair with a school and a university, and whatever I may have done for them, they have done far more for me."


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