Richard Edwards, AM ‘67
1997 Recipient of the Edith Abbott Award
The following is taken from the Fall 1997 issue of SSA Magazine.
Since this has been written, Richard Edwards assumed the position of dean of the School of Social Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, then was appointed as the interim vice president for academic affairs, and was named Chancellor of Rutgers--New Brunswick.
Richard L. Edwards, A.M. '67, dean and professor of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was named as the 1997 Edith Abbott Award Winner at SSA. The Abbott Award is bestowed every other year to the SSA graduate whose work most closely reflects the aspirations and spirit of SSA's first dean, Edit Abbott. Edwards was recognized for his work as dean at several schools and as former president of the National Association of Social Workers.
In 1992, Edwards arrived at Chapel Hill facing multiple challenges as dean: public resources for higher education were in decline, expectations for excellence in teaching were on the rise, and demands for service to the state were growing. Besides this, the school's faculty was scattered in five locations across the campus, public knowledge of the faculty's considerable accomplishments was scant, and support for students and faculty was limited. In addition, the school faced the arduous process of reaccreditation.
Edwards embraced these challenges and quickly began the process of reviewing and renewing the school's mission, revising its curriculum, and reshaping the governance structure. Under his leadership, the school has increased external funding and political support. For example, he has negotiated an additional state-funded faculty position, raised funds for endowed faculty chairs, and generated resources for students support and faculty research.
He made national news last year when Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls donated more than $1 million to the school. With the funds, Edwards developed the Jordan Institute for Families, which provides structure and support for one of Edwards's guiding visions, that of social work's critical role in strengthening families. Under his leadership, the school moved into a new, state-of-the art building, received reaccreditation, launched a doctoral program, and created demand for its consultation services throughout the state and internationally.
Besides numerous articles, chapters, and books, Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Social Work.