Paul Gitlin, 1926-2012

Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paul Gitlin, a beloved teacher and associate professor emeritus at the School of Social Service Administration, died January 23. He was 85. 

Paul Gitlin on the phone at his deskPaul Gitlin, a beloved teacher and associate professor emeritus at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, died January 23. He was 85.

Gitlin’s early experiences as a social worker working with school-age children helped inform his later work as an educator. He helped build the School's group work program along with professors Irving Spergel and Mary Lou Somers. The group work sequence, initiated in 1958-59 and directed by Somers, was an important bridge between high-level policy and on-the-ground casework.

Gitlin helped to establish the Families, Individuals, and Communities (FIGS) sequence of classes for second-year master’s students and taught many sections of foundational clinical social work classes. He imparted to his students his love for working with and helping children who suffered from emotional and behavioral problems.

Gitlin was also briefly the Director of Field Education and was a beloved colleague of former dean of students Phil Hovda; Samuel Deutsch Professor Emerita Bernece Simon AB ’36, AM ’42; Mary Lou Somers; Irving Spergel; and Karen Teigiser, AM ’71.

“Paul Gitlin was a true social worker. His concern for vulnerable children was unparalleled. He cared deeply about ways in which theory could inform practice to enhance the well-being of children and their families.” says Karen Teigiser, former Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean for the Curriculum. She added that “relationships were at the heart of his life and work. His connection to his students modeled the essence of social work practice. He invited them to develop self-awareness and honesty in their work. His warmth and genuineness were deeply affirming to his students, clients, colleagues and staff.”

Gitlin’s students were equally devoted and many implemented his wisdom into their careers. Several former students who he inspired, guided, and influenced remember Gitlin fondly:

SSA alum Charles Curie, AM ‘79 remembered, “Paul did more than impart knowledge about how to effectively intervene to help families and individuals.  He challenged me to consider what I brought to the problem solving process and consider how to utilize my experiences in conjunction with the evidence of what works.  He became a true mentor and friend to each of us, helping us to be more effective through being genuine.  It was a great gift.”

SSA alum Rory Gilbert, AM ’79, said “SSA taught me to always view the big picture and I believe that my success with people comes from my ability to see the problem as a whole and not just in pieces. I owe a lot to SSA and professors such as Paul Gitlin.”

Frederic G. Reamer, AM ’75, PhD ’78, professor at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work said, “What I appreciated most about Paul during our 36-year relationship was his unwavering commitment to honesty and forthrightness.  Paul was resolute about truthfulness and candor, and these are vitally important qualities in social work -- indeed, in life.  Paul gave meaning to the word integrity and modeled it for generations of students.”

Gitlin attended Case Western Reserve University where he received his Masters of Science in 1954 and Doctorate of Social Work in 1968. He started as an Assistant Professor at SSA in 1964.

Gitlin retired from SSA on September 9, 1992. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He was preceded in death by his wife Dorianne, and is survived by his three children, Naomi (David Saltz), Ruth, and Lew (Laura) and his two grandchildren, Todd and Justin. A funeral service was held Wednesday January 25th at the Hillel House on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.