California Social Work Hall of Distinction Inducts Distinguished Social Workers

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The California Social Work Hall of Distinction hosted its annual induction ceremony May 16 at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel, honoring five social work advocates, including two posthumously.

The 2009 induction ceremony began with a reception and welcome from Ben Cuellar, chair of the California Social Work Hall of Distinction Committee, and Vice Chair Monika White. The committee comprises social work leaders from universities and social work organizations throughout the state. After the induction, closing remarks were made by Esther Gillies, president of the California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA).

Funded by CSWA and supporters of the Hall of Distinction, and in conjunction with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the organization inducted Manuel F. Fimbres, founding faculty member and associate dean of the School of Social Work at San Jose State University; Jeff Jue, advocate for social services; Ben J. Kelley, reformist in the field of public human services; Percy H. Steele, Jr., leader in civil rights; and Kunitake Morgan Yamanaka, advocate of equal rights and social justice.

Fimbres has had a significant impact on social work, not only at the national and state levels, but also at the regional, county and local levels. His list of accomplishments in social work practice and education include service as the first Chicano president of NASW-CA and the California Faculty Association. He established a unique transcultural social work curriculum to respond to the needs of various multicultural communities and was a key founding member of the National Chicano Social Planning Project of the 1970s and 1980s.

Jue, a humanitarian in his leadership, teaching and day-to-day work, played a major role in the development and administration of programs that served the poor, the disabled and those with mental illnesses. With a bachelor's degree in social welfare from San Francisco State University and a master of social work degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Jue began his social work career as a case manager for the Community Services Division of the California Department of Mental Health. He inspired students in his social policy and mental health policy classes at Berkeley and California State University, Stanislaus. His many roles included serving as president for the California chapter of NASW, the California Mental Health Directors Association and the California Welfare Directors Association. He served on the National Board of the NASW and chaired the NASW Insurance Trust.

Kelley's passion to reform human services agencies to better serve adults and families was apparent throughout his career. He has made immense and long-lasting contributions to the profession of social work and the field of public human services, which are evident through the many reforms he helped pioneer. Kelley was instrumental in advocating for changes in the federal "100-hour work rule" that disadvantaged two-parent working families. At a local level, he initiated expanded agency hours to improve responsiveness to clients, inclusion of parents in decision-making in child welfare cases, and helped to establish liaison positions to respond quickly to foster parent needs. His work reflected his belief that a public agency should serve the community and not itself.

Steele was a social work leader in human relations and a committed consensus builder, who worked with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. He made his greatest contribution to social work as executive director of the San Diego Urban League from 1953 to 1963. He emerged as one of the most significant leaders in San Diego's African-American community in the post-World War II era. He was subsequently president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Urban League for a quarter century, where he provided leadership in the community to develop opportunities for African Americans. Steele graduated from North Carolina Central College in Durham and earned a master of social work from Atlanta University. He was recognized for his contributions with an NASW Social Work Administrator of the Year Award in 1976, a Distinguished Services Award from the National Association of Black Social Workers in 1987 and the 50th Anniversary Outstanding Alumni Award from the Atlanta University School of Social Work.

During World War II, Yamanaka and his family were incarcerated in internment camps for four years due to the exclusion orders that banished them from their home based solely on their ancestry. He later became a social worker and advocate for equal rights, constitutional protections and social justice for the oppressed, under-served and under-represented populations. Yamanaka served as the director of the Institute for Multicultural Research and Social Work Practice at the School of Social Work at San Francisco State University, where he was a faculty member for 44 years. He has been active in numerous civic, social and professional organizations including the Board of Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Chapter. He received his bachelor's degree in sociology in 1950 and a master of social work in 1953, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

The California Social Work Hall of Distinction was established by CSWA, which, with support from the USC School of Social Work, maintains oral histories of social work leaders and collections of some of the most historically significant documents in the development of social welfare in the state. The Hall of Distinction honors the contributions of social work leaders, innovators and pioneers who have been instrumental in the betterment of society. For information about past inductees, or to nominate a social work leader, visit the organization's website at

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