Frances Gelber of Brookline, former assistant dean of the BU School of Social Work and former associate director of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, died June 4 of complications from heart surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She was 64.
"Fran's contributions to the School of Social Work were enormous," says Wilma Peebles-Wilkins, dean of the School. "She was devoted to all students but particularly to students of color. She was very welcoming to students and tireless in her efforts to help them succeed."
After her retirement in June 1997, Gelber continued to devote time to the School of Social Work, advising students in their agency field placements. "She left an indelible mark on the school and will be greatly missed," says Peebles-Wilkins.
Gelber graduated from BU in 1954 and Simmons College School of Social Work in 1956. Prior to joining the BU faculty, she was a case worker at New England Home for Little Wanderers and then as a child welfare specialist and associate director of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, a social service agency.
In a story published in BU Today in February 1995, when Gelber was promoted to assistant dean, she said that it was during the "war on poverty" in the late 1960s that she became convinced there was a need for a continuing education program for local social service workers. She returned to BU, as field education coordinator, in 1973.
"During that time, many neighborhood residents came to work in some of the new social service agencies," she said. "Most of them did not have the college credentials that would have allowed them to move ahead. So the B.S.W. program enabled some local residents to go back to school and get a degree."
Gelber said that what she enjoyed most about her work as administrator at BU was helping students and that she kept "a candy dish on the corner of my desk in the hopes that it will entice students to come in."
She leaves two sisters, Joan Marshall of Philadelphia and Barbara Powers of Mattapan, and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at BU's Marsh Chapel. Memorial donations may be made to the Frances H. Gelber Memorial Scholarship Fund, Dean's Office, Boston University School of Social Work, 264 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215.