California Social Work Hall of Distinction Welcomes New Members

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The California Social Work Hall of Distinction inducted six new members, three posthumously, Oct. 29 at a ceremony in Burlingame, Calif., that honored their significant contributions to the profession.

These social work pioneers join a list of 67 existing Hall of Distinction members, all of whom have made course-altering decisions that have uniquely affected the direction of social welfare in California.

“Tonight’s induction class represents contributions in a broad range of social work practice, from education and research to social services and justice,” said Colleen Friend, chair of the Hall of Distinction committee. “Their work collectively spans well over 100 years and has resulted in changes in the way social work is practiced and perceived and leaves a legacy that has enriched people’s lives beyond measure.”

The 2011 inductees include:

  • Richard Masato Aoki, a counselor, instructor, administrator and influential political activist who dedicated his life to his beliefs and the struggle for human rights
  • Ronald V. Dellums, former U.S. Congressional Representative from California, Ninth District, and mayor of Oakland who earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of California, Berkeley
  • Herman Gallegos, a pioneer for civil rights for Latinos and other minority groups who held leadership positions in a wide range of philanthropic and civic activities, including co-founder of the national Community Service Organization with Cesar Chavez
  • Edward Nathan, former faculty at UC Berkeley and executive director of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, who was one of the nation’s most innovative philanthropic grant makers and whose efforts were pivotal to the creation of the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC)
  • Janice Kay O’Donnell, a social work professor and administrator at California State University, Chico, whose unparalleled efforts in the areas of education and outreach brought professional social work services to northern, especially rural, California
  • Kermit T. Wiltse, a social work practitioner, educator, administrator and researcher devoted to improving the lives of disadvantaged children and families.

The Hall of Distinction was established in 2002 under the auspices of the California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA) to honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions to social welfare and the social work profession in California. CSWA, with support from the USC School of Social Work, maintains one of the most extensive collections of California social welfare history. The organization conducts oral history interviews and acquires and preserves materials of historical significance, documenting the development of social welfare in California and making it accessible for future generations.

This year’s Hall of Distinction induction ceremony was sponsored by the School of Social Work, the National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter, and numerous schools and departments of social work and social welfare from across California.

“At least a half a dozen of our social work leaders in attendance tonight conveyed to me that it was a moving, inspirational and emotional event that renewed their spirit and reinvigorated them for meeting the challenge of social work today,” said Janlee Wong, executive director of the California chapter of NASW.

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