University of Pittsburgh
September 25, 2000


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 20 -- David E. Epperson, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work for the past 28 years, has announced that he will step down from that position at the end of the current academic year. During his tenure, the school has achieved national prominence, ranking among the top ten percent of the 140 graduate social work programs in the United States.

Since he became dean in 1972, enrollment in the school has more than tripled to its current level of 750 students, research grants and private support have increased, and the school is recognized as a major agent in formulating social policy issues for the region.

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg praised the contributions of a person he considers to be a close colleague, valued advisor, and good friend. "Dean Epperson has been a driving force in the progress of our School of Social Work for nearly three decades. All of us hate to see him leave the position that he has filled so ably for so long, but he believes that this is the right time for a transition in leadership. He leaves a rich legacy within the school, and it is reassuring to know that he will continue to serve the University and the broader community," Nordenberg said.

Pitt Provost James V. Maher also praised Epperson for his accomplishments. "The planning process that was led by Dean Epperson has enabled the school to focus its efforts on areas of its greatest strength, which in turn has led to a rise in its national recognition," Maher said. The Pitt School of Social Work is the only accredited graduate program in social work in western Pennsylvania. The areas of emphasis within the school include mental health, community building, children, youth and families, and aging. In addition to programs directed at teaching and practice, the school has also increasingly emphasized research. It currently houses one of seven Mental Health Services Research Centers in the country supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, and its Child Welfare Education for Leadership project is one of the 25 largest sponsored research projects at Pittsburgh area universities.

The school continues to meet or exceed its enrollment goals, attracting top students from the Pittsburgh region and from across the nation. Twenty-two percent of the students are people of color, and 50 percent of the African American graduate students have come from Historical Black Colleges and Universities, a result of aggressive recruitment efforts over the past two decades. People of color make up 25 percent of the faculty, and eight deans of other social work schools throughout the country are either graduates of Pitt's School of Social Work, or were members of its teaching faculty.

In announcing his retirement, Epperson commended his colleagues over the years for their contributions to the school's progress. "I have had the opportunity to work with many dedicated faculty, staff, and students over the past 28 years, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. The School of Social Work is recognized nationally as a leader in teaching, research, and community involvement, and I leave the deanship confident that the school is well-positioned to achieve even higher levels of excellence and service," Epperson said.

He added that he would be spending a significant amount of time during the coming year fundraising for the school. Epperson played a key role in the establishment of the school's first endowed professorship, the Philip B. Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice, and in the recruitment of the first Hallen Professor, Dr. Stephen Thomas. The Hallen Chair, supported by funds from the Maurice Falk Medical Fund, is shared by the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health, reflecting the well-established relationship between the two schools.

While serving as dean, Epperson also has been active in a number of other national and international endeavors. He has participated in more than 50 academic and social welfare missions to other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. He has served on the boards of directors of a number of national organizations, including the Council on Social Work Education, the National Center for Social Policy and Practice, and the National Association of Deans and Directors. Next month, he will be honored in New York City, when he will be one of six recipients of the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young Medallion.

Long active in civic affairs, he is presently vice chair of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and serves on the board of trustees of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the board of directors of the YMCA of Pittsburgh, and the board of trustees of the YMCA of the USA. He is also a member of the William Copeland Fund Advisory Committee and the Lemington Home Advisory Board of the Pittsburgh Foundation, and PNC Bank's Urban Advisory Board. A former chair of the board of the Negro Educational Emergency Drive (NEED), the YMCA of Pittsburgh, the Urban League of Pittsburgh, and a former trustee of the National Urban League, Epperson was also a former member of the State Planning Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and was cited as "Man of the Year in Education" in 1982 by Vectors Pittsburgh.

Before becoming dean, Epperson held positions as executive director of Community Action Pittsburgh, Inc., field instructor in the School of Social Work, and University Fellow in Urban Affairs in Pitt's Political Science department. He has a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's degree in political science and international affairs, a master's degree in social work, and a Ph.D. in political science and public policy, all from the University of Pittsburgh.