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September 28, 2000

Epperson to step down as dean of social work

David E. Epperson, dean of Pitt's School of Social Work for the past 28 years, will step down at the end of the current academic year.

Named social work dean in 1972, Epperson is the longest-serving Pitt dean. His tenure also is the longest of any current dean of social work in the country.

Founded in 1939, Pitt's School of Social Work is the only accredited graduate program in social work in western Pennsylvania. The areas of emphasis within the school include mental health, community building, children, youth and families, and aging.

In addition to programs directed at teaching and practice, the school also houses one of seven Mental Health Services Research Centers in the country. Its Child Welfare Education for Leadership project is one of the 25 largest sponsored research projects at Pittsburgh area universities.

During Epperson's tenure as dean, the school has achieved national prominence, ranking among the top 10 percent of the 140 graduate social work programs in the United States. Eight deans of other social work schools throughout the country are either graduates of Pitt's School of Social Work or were members of its faculty.

Under Epperson's leadership, enrollment in the school has more than tripled to its current level of 750 students. In addition, the school has increased its diversity, with 22 percent of the students and 25 percent of the faculty being people of color.

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg praised the contributions of the retiring dean. "Dean Epperson has been a driving force in the progress of our School of Social Work for nearly three decades," Nordenberg said. "All of us hate to see him leave the position that he has filled so ably for so long, but he believes that this is the right time for a transition in leadership. He leaves a rich legacy within the school, and it is reassuring to know that he will continue to serve the University and the broader community."

Pitt Provost James V. Maher also praised Epperson for his accomplishments. "The planning process that was led by Dean Epperson has enabled the school to focus its efforts on areas of its greatest strength, which in turn has led to a rise in its national recognition," Maher said.

In announcing his retirement, Epperson commended his colleagues over the years for their contributions to the school's progress. "I have had the opportunity to work with many dedicated faculty, staff and students over the past 28 years, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. The School of Social Work is recognized nationally as a leader in teaching, research and community involvement, and I leave the deanship confident that the school is well-positioned to achieve even higher levels of excellence and service," Epperson said.

He added he would be increasing his fund-raising activities for the school during this year. "And after I 'hang it up' as dean, I'll still be involved in many of my civic activities and may occasionally teach," Epper-son said. He said the chancellor and the provost had tried to talk him out of retiring, but after he and his family discussed it, he felt it was the right time to step down.

The social work dean has been active in a number of national and international endeavors. He has participated in more than 50 academic and social welfare missions to other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

He also has served on the boards of directors of a number of national organizations, including the Council on Social Work Education, the National Center for Social Policy and Practice and the National Association of Deans and Directors.

Next month, he will be honored in New York City, when he will be one of six recipients of the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young Medallion.

Long active in civic affairs, he is vice chair of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and serves on the board of trustees of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the board of directors of the YMCA of Pittsburgh and the board of trustees of the YMCA of the USA.

He also is a member of the William Copeland Fund Advisory Committee and the Lemington Home Advisory Board of the Pittsburgh Foundation, and PNC Bank's Urban Advisory Board.

A former chair of the board of the Negro Educational Emergency Drive (NEED), the YMCA of Pittsburgh, the Urban League of Pittsburgh and a former trustee of the National Urban League, Epperson also was a member of the State Planning Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and was cited as "Man of the Year in Education" in 1982 by Vectors Pittsburgh.

Before becoming dean, Epperson held positions as executive director of Community Action Pittsburgh, Inc., field instructor in the School of Social Work, and University Fellow in Urban Affairs in Pitt's political science department.

He earned a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's degree in political science and international affairs, a master's degree in social work, and a Ph.D. in political science and public policy, all from the University of Pittsburgh.


Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 3

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