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Anonymous Alum Donates $1 Million

Biggest individual gift in SSW’s history

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The BU School of Social Work, with its roots in the School of Religious Education and Social Work, opened as an independent institution in 1940. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The School of Social Work has received the largest individual gift in its history — $1 million from an alumna who has supported the school over the years and who wishes to remain anonymous.

“This generous gift from one of our alumni will allow us to continue educating the best and brightest in social work,” says Gail Steketee, dean of the graduate school. “We are extremely grateful to the donor and excited to be able to advance the field of social work for generations to come.”

Dispersed over five years, the gift will go toward student scholarships and special programs.

“In these economic times, the scholarship monies are most critical,” Steketee says. “I think it’s perfectly clear across the country that we all want to make sure that students who are qualified — and especially the highly qualified ones — are able to get the funding they need to go to school.”

A portion of the donation also will be used to support programs of interest to the donor. One possibility is to use some of the money to train selected faculty in a new, burgeoning area of the profession: financial social work. These social workers help clients plan their spending, manage their debt, and make financial decisions.

“Money, and how we spend money, has a major effect on everyone’s life,” says Steketee. “Relationships are made and broken around money. So it’s no surprise that those of us invested in work on health care and mental health care would have to have some involvement in that.”

Another option is to use some funds as a pilot grant to kick-start a new research project examining the economic impact of social work services on outcomes of health care and mental health care. A third option is to support the school’s public health social work training institute, tied to a dual degree program in social work and public health.

The biggest previous donation to SSW was a $250,000 bequest in 1993.

“I take it as a high approval rating for us as a school and for where we’re headed,” says Steketee.

“This kind of leadership gift,” adds Ken Schulman, SSW associate dean for enrollment services and external relations, “is one that we think strongly signals to other alumni that there is this extent of interest and support of the school, and that this level of generosity is possible.”

Cynthia K. Buccini can be reached at cbuccini@bu.edu.

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