California's Most Accomplished Social Workers Honored

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The California Social Welfare Archives held its annual induction ceremony for the California Social Work Hall of Distinction on May 4 in San Francisco, admitting six illustrious social workers, including three posthumously.

Co-sponsored by the USC School of Social Work and the National Association of Social Workers, the Hall of Distinction inducted Diana Ming Chan, coordinator of the Asian Pacific Islander Social Work Council; Lillian Hyatt, a leader in self-empowerment; Marianne Pennekamp, a prolific children and family social work contributor; Simon Dominguez (deceased), a champion of Latino social workers in California; Richard Ford (deceased), former dean of the California State University Fresno School of Social Work; and John Wax (deceased), a pioneering healthcare social worker.

Diana Ming Chan
Diana Ming Chan is a former school social worker who over the course of her career has been a policy advocate, social work mentor, instructor, director, clinical practitioner, consultant and staff trainer. When budget cuts resulted in many eliminated school social work jobs in 2000, she and her family committed $1 million to establish the Learning Springboard Endowment in the National Association of Social Workers Foundation. Learning Springboard promotes school social work by training professional social workers to work in the San Francisco Unified School District. Chan's dedication to social work has opened doors that were once closed for many school social workers. She has reached out to immigrants and their American-born children while working to integrate teacher interaction with social workers. Chan pioneered culturally relevant applications of social work principles to the San Francisco Bay area Asian population and advanced the knowledge of Chinese-American culture in the school district. She has been a true advocate for the profession.

Lillian Hyatt
Lillian Hyatt, another advocate for social work, has followed a personal path in the profession. Before she became a social worker, Hyatt traveled the world promoting religious dialogue and tolerance as the wife and aide to the president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the International Council of Christians and Jews. She has also taught and conducted research at San Francisco State University, and she founded the Coalition for Interfaith Understanding. Since 2005, Hyatt has been writing articles for the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform to offer a consumer perspective – she is a resident of a California Continuing Care Retirement Community – and has consequently become an elder care advocate for herself and other residents.

Marianne Pennekamp
Marianne Pennekamp's contribution to social work spans 50 years. She has influenced the development of the profession through practice, teaching and writing, helping to change social work's focus from casework to a person-in-the-environment perspective that encourages collaboration with other professionals and organizations. Since retiring in the mid-1980s, Pennekamp has helped to develop a workshop for children of divorce and has served on the Child Death Review Committee, which resulted in publishing recommendations that addressed the documented, preventable child deaths and reduced the high rates of child deaths in Humboldt County.

Simon Dominguez
With passion and conviction, Simon Dominguez was instrumental in developing, organizing and advocating for services and programs to better serve the Chicano/Latino population in California. His contributions to social work included the advancement of education for Latino social workers, exemplified by his role in the creation of the School of Social Work at San Jose State University, where he served as a role model and mentor for social work students, faculty and members of the community for 33 years. In the early 1970s, Dominguez initiated the Chicano Mental Health committee in Santa Clara County, and in his later years, he had begun writing about the history of Latino social workers in the state.

Richard Ford
Richard Ford was also instrumental in the development of a social work school. As dean of the California State University Fresno School of Social Work for 24 years, Ford provided significant leadership to a young, fledgling social work program, recruiting and maintaining the most diverse faculty and student body on the CSU Fresno campus. During his tenure, thousands of minority and disadvantaged students completed their degrees in social work. His influence had a significant impact on social work in the central San Joaquin Valley.

John Wax
For 50 years, John Wax served as a devoted staff member of the Veterans Administration, pioneering social work education in group and organizational techniques. He was social work supervisor for the Denver VA Hospital from 1947 to 1957 and chief of social work service at the Palo Alto California Medical Center from 1957 to 1997. Wax focused on assisting social workers to develop their power to implant and realize social work values in the healthcare system. He spearheaded use of the concept of the victim mentality and how it inhibited the development of effective social work practice in the hospital setting. Wax's influence helped social workers to achieve positive change in their professional and organizational lives.

The California Social Work Hall of Distinction was established by the California Social Welfare Archives, a collection of 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, visit the organization's website at

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