A University of Georgia professor known for combating injustice through her activism and scholarship has been selected for one of the social work profession’s highest honors.
The Council on Social Work Education has chosen June Gary Hopps, the Thomas M. “Jim” Parham Professor of Family and Children Studies at the UGA School of Social Work, to receive its Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award. The award recognizes exemplary accomplishments in research, teaching pedagogy, curriculum development and organizational leadership over an entire career.
Hopps’ career holds many firsts. She was the first African-American dean of Boston College School of Social Work and the youngest in its history. Under her leadership, the school transitioned from a small regional program to one of national prominence, rising to 14th in the U.S. News and World Report’s graduate school rankings. As the first African-American editor-in-chief of Social Work, the flagship journal of the National Association of Social Workers, she developed initiatives to bring more women and people of color into research publication.
Hopps’ published work, which includes seven books, often calls attention to inequality outside and within social work. In the 1995 book “The Power to Care,” she examined the roles that discrimination, poverty and race play in the effectiveness of social workers trying to help the most vulnerable populations. A special 1982 edition the NASW journal Social Work titled “People of Color and Social Work,” which she edited, is considered a landmark publication by those in the profession.
“Dr. Hopps’ eminence as a social work policy scholar reflects her lifelong dedication to equality and social justice,” wrote Anna Scheyett, dean of the UGA School of Social Work, and Jenny Jones, dean of the Clark Atlanta University School of Social Work, in a letter supporting Hopps’ nomination for the award. “We are in awe of her bravery and resolve for justice for all.”
Hopps, the great-granddaughter of slaves, grew up in the segregated South. She originally planned to go into law, but an encounter with civil rights activist Whitney Young convinced her to pursue social work. While attending Spelman College in 1960, the petite undergraduate risked physical attack and was arrested for participating in the first lunch counter sit-ins in Atlanta aimed at ending segregation.
“Dr. Hopps is a champion for justice,” said Rebecca Matthew, an assistant professor in the school. “She asks questions of unparalleled significance to this world, such as what are we truly willing to sacrifice in the name of justice? And, if not now, when?”
Dr. June Gary Hopps is a pioneer, trailblazer, civil rights hero and bridge builder. — Professor Emeritus Maurice Daniels
At the UGA School of Social Work, Hopps has played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Donald L. Hollowell Professorship, which honors the civil rights lawyer who helped to desegregate the University of Georgia, and in establishment of the Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights. In addition to teaching courses and guiding research, Hopps serves as an authority in the area of public policy as it relates to families and children. Hopps also initiated Parham Policy Day, an annual student-run event at which leading national and state figures discuss best practices for creating good public policy.
“Her dedication and foresight has connected clinical and community practice and multiple disciplines while shattering racial and gender lines,” said Yosha Dotson, a social work graduate student. “She engages you by using her personal experiences to bridge the past and present generations.”
Hopps’ endeavors galvanized Dotson and other graduate students to establish the Dr. June Gary Hopps Bridge Award, presented to Hopps in January at the first annual student-run Social Justice Symposium.
“Dr. June Gary Hopps is a pioneer, trailblazer, civil rights hero and bridge builder,” Professor Emeritus Maurice Daniels told the audience at the event. “She has made enormous contributions to the cause of social justice and social work education.” Daniels was dean during much of Hopps’ career at UGA.
Hopps’ many other honors include the National Association of Social Workers’ Presidential Award for Excellence in Social Work Education and admission to its cohort of Social Work Pioneers. She also served as president of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, chaired the accreditation committees of several top social work schools and chaired the Spelman College Board of Trustees for many years. In 2005 Spelman, her alma mater, named its Manley Center Atrium in her honor and in 2015 presented her with an honorary doctorate.
“June Gary Hopps’ tireless efforts as a drum major for civil and human rights represents a beacon of hope, a profile of courage and stellar leadership,” wrote professor Harold Briggs in another nomination letter. “I cannot think of a better person more deserving of this award.”
The award will be presented at the CSWE’s annual awards luncheon in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 22.
Founded in 1964, the University of Georgia School of Social Work provides instruction, research and hands-on training in social work practice while emphasizing the integration of social work with social justice. For more information on the School of Social Work, see http://ssw.uga.edu/.