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SSW History

UNC School of Social Work was founded in 1920 as the School of Public Welfare under the direction of Howard W. Odum, Ph.D., and with the support of Harry Woodburn Chase, Ph.D., LLD, who served as president of the University of North Carolina.

The School was founded in response to a North Carolina state law, passed in 1919, which required every county to provide public welfare services and to employ a superintendent of public welfare. Initially, the School trained these new superintendents and their staff members, in partnership with the NC Department of Public Welfare.

Over the next three decades, several changes occurred in the School’s organization. First, Public Welfare and Social Work became a division within the renamed School of Public Administration. In its next evolution, the division became the Graduate School of Public Welfare. In 1950, the division was renamed as the School of Social Work, becoming an accredited member of the Council on Social Work Education in 1952.

In the following years, the School led the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in several historic firsts. Most notably, Hortense McClinton became the first African American to serve on the University’s faculty (1966), and John Turner, Ph.D., became the first African American to serve as dean of a professional school at the University (1981).

The School demonstrated its leadership again in the 1990s, when it introduced North Carolina’s first doctoral degree program in social work.

In the photo: Coates Building (223 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill), constructed in 1938, served as the School’s home for many years. In 1996, the School moved into its current home, Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building (325 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill).

Former Deans and Directors

Howard W. Odum, Ph.D., 1920-1936
Roy M. Brown, Ph.D., 1936-1945
Arthur E. Fink, Ph.D., 1945-1965
Alan Keith-Lucas, Ph.D., (acting dean) 1950-1951, 1965-1966, 1971-1972
C. Wilson Anderson, DSW, 1966-1971
Morton I. Teicher, Ph.D., 1972-1981
Richard H. Uhlig, Ph.D., (acting dean) 1975, 1981
John B. Turner, DSW, 1981-1992
Richard L. Edwards, Ph.D., 1993-2000
Kim Strom-Gottfried, Ph.D., (interim dean) 2001
Jack Richman, Ph.D., 2002-2016
Gary L. Bowen, Ph.D., 2016-2021