By Eric Lindberg
Left: Fellow inductees Nancy Humphreys and Ellen Dunbar enjoy the Hall of Distinction reception.
Hall of Distinction Committee members and NASW-CA Executive Director Janlee Wong, Nancy Lim-Yee, (First Vice President), and Catharine Ralph (President) with Emily Murase who accepted on behalf of her father, Dr. Kenji Murase, who was inducted posthumously.
Six leading scholars who dedicated their careers to addressing issues such as child sexual abuse, social diversity and justice, and disability rights while advancing the profession of social work have been inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction.
The California Social Work Hall of Distinction is part of the California Social Welfare Archives, housed at the USC Doheny Special Collections Library and supported by the USC School of Social Work. The archives are designed to identify and preserve documents and memorabilia on social work and social welfare programs in California, including oral histories from professional and volunteer social welfare leaders.
The new inductees are Sandra Baker, a powerful advocate for children who experienced sexual abuse; Ellen Russell Dunbar, a leading voice for the professionalization of social work,particularly in rural communities; Nancy A. Humphreys, a pioneering social work leader who advanced the profession’s national vision in terms of education and policy; Terry Jones, a champion of social diversity and justice who has emphasized educating and serving underrepresented populations; Richard O. Salsgiver, an educator, practitioner and advocate for disability awareness and rights; and honored posthumously, Kenji Murase, an avid scholar whose career focused on equality and justice for oppressed and marginalized communities, particularly Asian Americans.
Since 2002, the Hall of Distinction has honored nearly 100 individuals who have made outstanding contributions to social work and social welfare in California, with a particular emphasis on practitioners, advocates and educators.
Left: State Senate Candidate and MSW Mariko Yamada presented Nancy Humphreys with her award.
Top Right: Virginia Rondero Hernandez, Chair of the Department of Social Work Education at Fresno State presents to honoree Richard O. Salsgiver.
Right: Colleen Friend of Cal State University, Los Angeles, is the chair of the state-wide California Social Work Hall of Distinction Committee which is part of the California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA).
Esther Gillies (on left) with Sandra Baker.
A licensed clinical social worker who earned a master’s degree from California State University, Sacramento, Baker is known for founding and leading the Child and Family Institute (CFI), which is dedicated to helping children, teens and families recover from trauma.
While working in Child Protective Services in Sacramento County, Baker noticed a lack of services for children who had been sexually abused. Discouraged by the few treatment and intervention options, she left her position in 1978 to create the Sacramento Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, which evolved into the CFI. She went on to develop groundbreaking programs to treat victims of child sexual abuse and their family members, including perpetrators, and advance knowledge in the then-nascent field of child protection and treatment.
Although she officially retired from the CFI in 2005, she is still pushing the field forward, as evidenced by her remarks at the induction ceremony.
“We still have kids that slip through the cracks, and I found them,” she said, describing her current work as a supervising psychiatric social worker in correctional facilities. “They grow up and they end up in the penal system.”
She encouraged the attendees to continue to embrace the emerging focus in social work on interdisciplinary practice, particularly as the profession moves into new arenas such as prisons.
Ellen Russell Dunbar
After earning two advanced degrees at USC, an MSW and a PhD in public affairs, Dunbar has had a lasting effect on the social work landscape throughout California, most notably as executive director of the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and a leading force behind the creation of the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC).
After working with Special Service for Groups, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles focused on serving vulnerable communities, she rose through the ranks as a faculty member at Eastern Washington University’s School of Social Welfare. Her eight-year stint at NASW’s California chapter left the organization on a solid financial and professional footing; it is now the largest chapter in the country with the largest fiscal reserves and owns the building where it is headquartered.
In the mid-1990s, Dunbar left NASW to launch an MSW program at California State University, Stanislaus, where she emphasized the needs of underserved and marginalized populations. She noted a particular need for social workers in rural and remote areas of California.
“Nobody was graduating in those areas,” she said. “People from the city didn’t think they wanted to go work in the middle of the state.”
In addition to her work at CSU Stanislaus, Dunbar helped strengthen the ranks of social workers in California by working with leaders from other schools of social work and county welfare directors to establish CalSWEC, which has produced hundreds of highly competent social workers for the state’s public social services system.
Nancy A. Humphreys
A self-proclaimed feminist and social work chauvinist, Humphreys led the charge the establish a new vision for NASW, emphasizing the need for social work leaders to engage in the political arena and encouraging women to seek leadership roles in social work and wider society.
“Today, the idea of social workers being in elected political office is nowhere near as foreign as it would have been even 10 years ago,” she said.
After earning her MSW from the USC School of Social Work in 1963, Humphreys held various practitioner and educator roles in the Los Angeles area, including with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, USC, and UCLA. She later served as dean of schools of social work at Michigan State University and University of Connecticut.
But it was her work with NASW that had the greatest effect on the social work profession in California and nationwide. She played an instrumental role in merging 16 chapters into a single statewide chapter in 1970, and as national president of NASW, she championed gender equality as a critical aspect of the organization’s affirmative action plan. Humphreys also extended her reach globally, helping to establish BSW and MSW programs in Armenia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Throughout her career, she emphasized the engagement of social workers in policy and politics, founding the Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut to advance the core values of social work in the political world.
A founding member and professor emeritus of the Social Work Department at California State University, East Bay, Jones has been a powerful advocate for social justice and addressing the needs of underserved groups.
For more than 35 years, he relentlessly pursued his goal of developing a more diverse workforce of social workers who can work with vulnerable and underrepresented communities in urban areas of California.
“As social workers, it’s our job, it’s our duty to stand up and help address injustice and oppression in any form,” he said.
In addition to developing what is now recognized as one of the best and most diverse MSW programs in the state, Jones secured federal funding to train students to work in county child welfare agencies and focused his research on social policy, racism and multiculturalism in higher education. He remains active in community affairs in the Bay Area, particularly as an advocate for children from minority and low-income communities.
Described as a social justice-oriented humanist, a community connector, and a professional writer, lecturer, scholar and educator, Murase dedicated his life to improving resources for underserved populations, particularly in Asian American communities in the San Francisco region.
Born to a farming family in the small town of Parlier in California’s Central Valley, Murase spent his childhood toiling in the fields before escaping to UC Berkeley with the dream of being a professional writer and scholar. When the United States entered World War II, however, he was taken with his family to an internment camp in Arizona. Fortunately, through a national Japanese American student relocation program, he obtained permission to leave and attended Temple University, where he earned an MSW in 1947.
He became the first American Fulbright Scholar in Japan and taught social work at Osaka University before returning to New York to complete a doctorate at Columbia University. In 1972, he was recruited to establish a department of social work education at San Francisco State University.
His daughter, Emily, who accepted the posthumous honor on his behalf, described how he came to school on his first day wearing a tie and tweed coat with elbow patches.
“He sees his students sprawled all over the place, there’s a guy with long hair—this is the 1960s in San Francisco,” she said. “That was the first and last day he wore a tie to work.”
During his time in San Francisco, he led a community survey to determine the long-term care needs of Japanese older adults and explored how best to develop community-based mental health services for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the region. He also helped found the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California, which now offers cultural activities and services to more than 185,000 people each year.
Richard O. Salsgiver
A leading voice on behalf of individuals with disabilities, Salsgiver has drawn inspiration from his own experiences to advocate for disability rights and awareness.
“I know what it is like to be locked in a room, locked in a closet for three days because you’ve done something wrong,” he said, describing how he was institutionalized from age 6 to 12 after being born with cerebral palsy. “That knowledge has served me well in my profession as a social worker because it has given me legitimacy to talk about those experiences.”
Rather than allowing his life to be defined by his disability, Salsgiver sought to demonstrate that physical or mental limitations do not inhibit an individual’s ability to contribute to society. As the program manager of the Center for Independence of the Disabled and later as executive director of the California Association of the Physically Handicapped Independent Living Center, he emerged as a powerful political advocate and educator on disability-related issues.
He helped secure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and supported other legislation that enhanced the lives of individuals with disabilities throughout California. In 1994, Salsgiver joined the faculty at California State University, Fresno, where he taught courses on social work practice and human behavior. He also authored one of the leading disability-related texts, Disability: A Diversity Model Approach in Human Service Practice, now in its third edition.
“I am so thankful I am a social worker,” Salsgiver said during the induction ceremony. “It’s one of the few professions that allow you to legitimatize your life experience.”
The induction ceremony and oral history interviews are available to view online at http://www.youtube.com/USCSocialWork under the California Social Welfare Archives playlist.More information about the Hall of Distinction can be found at www.socialworkhallofdistinction.org.