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Gift increases scholarship for students interested in military social work

Margaret Mebane Parker, MSW ’60, was determined to help students interested in pursuing military social work. And in 2012, thanks to her generous donation to UNC’s School of Social Work, a scholarship was established to do just that. Eager to do even more, Parker doubled her contribution late last year, bringing the total value of the fund to $118,000. Her generosity now serves as a lasting tribute to a former clinical social worker who deeply cared about improving the lives of our country’s military veterans. Parker died March 1.

Mary Beth Hernandez, the School of Social Work’s associate dean for advancement, praised Parker’s commitment to social work education.
“The number of students who are interested in military social work has increased over the last few years, and Ms. Parker’s gift will enable us to support them in their work,” Hernandez said. “We’re so grateful for her support.”

Parker’s own professional experiences influenced her decision to help others interested in a similar career. As a new clinical social worker at the Salem Virginia Veterans Hospital in the mid-1960s, Parker saw first-hand the mental and physical effects of war on young soldiers, including those who struggled with brain injuries or substance abuse addiction. Many of today’s U.S. veterans, especially those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, face similar challenges, Parker said in an interview in 2012. As a result, many more social workers are needed to care for these wounded warriors and to help them successfully transition back to civilian life, she added.

“Seeing the impact on so many of those young boys coming home from Vietnam, some of whom I worked with who are now in nursing homes, I know what it’s going to cost to treat all of these people, including their families,” Parker said in the earlier interview. “So I understand the need (for mental health and social work practitioners).”

Parker, who earned a sociology degree from UNC in 1954, was employed with the departments of public welfare in Lee and in Alamance counties prior to enrolling at the School of Social Work. She credited a couple of classes with Dr. Alan Keith-Lucas, a pioneer in UNC social work, for persuading her to pursue an MSW degree.

Still, even after being accepted to the School, Parker said she was unsure she could afford a graduate education. “I really didn’t think I was going to be able to go, but then I got a federal stipend, and the money came through at the last minute,” Parker recalled during the 2012 interview. “So that’s really another reason I wanted to give back.”

During her years at the Salisbury VA Medical Center, Parker served as a faculty field instructor for UNC. Although she retired as a clinical social worker in 1994, she remained an active community volunteer, serving on mental health boards in three counties as well as on the board for Habitat for Humanity.

For more information about making an estate gift to the School of Social Work, please contact Mary Beth Hernandez,