As a new clinical social worker at a VA hospital in the mid-1960s, Margaret Mebane 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. Four decades later, the retired Salisbury resident knows that many U.S. veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing similar challenges.
The soldiers’ return has also created an increased demand for military social workers to care for wounded and disabled veterans and to help them successfully transition back to civilian life. For Parker, MSW ’60, that demand is a good reason to give back and why she has agreed to establish a scholarship to financially assist graduate students interested in pursuing a career in military social work. The award, which will be named in Parker’s honor, is being made possible by her estate gift to UNC’s School of Social Work.
“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. “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 credits a couple of classes that she took with Dr. Alan Keith-Lucas, a pioneer in UNC social work, for influencing her decision 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. 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 has remained an active community volunteer, serving on mental health boards in three counties as well as on the board for Habitat for Humanity.
Mary Beth Hernandez, the School of Social Work’s associate dean for advancement, praised Parker’s commitment to social work education.
“Faculty and students at the School are committed to serving military members and their families,” Hernandez said. “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. We’re so grateful for her support.”
For more information about making an estate gift to the School of Social Work, please contact Mary Beth Hernandez at 919-962-6469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.