The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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A “Celebration of Life” Honors Dr. Jean E. Daniels, Founder of CSUN MSW Program

Friends, family and colleagues gathered Monday morning to participate in a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Jean E. Daniels. Each speaker recounted a personal story illustrating Daniels’ impact on their lives – some stories were funny, some poignant – but all had a common thread: their lives were profoundly increased for having known her.

Upon entering the Thousand Oaks room in the USU, a photograph on an easel welcomes guests with a broad smile and kind eyes. It was that charisma, as well as a passion for helping others find their own way, that inspired Daniels to dedicate her career to social work.

But, according to Dr. Amy Levin, Social Work Department Chair, it was Daniels’ tenacity and drive that convinced CSUN to create something it had never offered students before – a Masters in Social Work program.

“Those of you who attended the memorial service on Saturday learned a little bit more about Dr. Jean E. Daniels than maybe you knew before and you’ll probably find out a little more about her today,” said Levin. “But I believe that you will all leave here being a little bit more in awe of the life she led and, the number of lives that she touched.”

Daniels professionally influenced a growing respect for social work and patient advocacy throughout her career. She was hired as the first Africa-American female professor in CSUN’s sociology department in 1976. Levin said that Daniels remained a “tireless advocate” for social work until she retired in 2013. It was through her leadership and dedication that the Masters of Social Work program has flourished from an unaccredited curriculum with 24 students in 2005, to the respected program educating a class of 400 students, today.

Joni Diamond, Chair of National Association of Social Workers’ Red Cross Council, remembered Daniels’ induction into the Social Work Hall of Fame at the California Social Welfare Archives in 2014 and her time as an active member of the California state chapter of the NASW Professional Development Committee from 2002-2004.

“Dr. Jean E., you’re still bringing social workers together, and you always will,” said Diamond.

Daniels’ investment in her students’ futures didn’t end with their graduation. Former students José Paez and Frank Costello both participated in the memorial to honor the impact she had on their educational and professional careers.

Costello was the first recipient of the Jean E. Daniels Award for Leadership and Academic Excellence in 2007. He continues to be involved in the program as Chair of Communications/Newsletter Committee of the MSW Alumni Association. Costello played the guitar as the guests assembled for the service.

Paez, now a social work lecturer, described the integrity Daniels embodied by comparing it to the NASW’s code of ethics. “Though the code has been updated to address modern issues as they arise, the core of the code is to treat people with dignity and respect,” he said. “The core stays the same.” He called her a mentor, teacher, friend and emotionally added, “I will always be indebted to her.”

Tears were just below the surface during all of the tributes to Daniels. Dr. Herman DeBose, a professor in the CSUN MSW program, had to pause to collect himself as he remembered her attendance at his retirement party. “She was unwell and she still came. She was just that kind of person.”

Members of the audience could be seen wiping away tears during Zachary Moore’s a capella performance of “Amazing Grace.” Moore stood in for his wife Carissa, CSUN’s College of Social and Behavioral Science Solar Coordinator, who was unable to attend.

As Pastor Andrea Humphrey prepared to lead the closing prayer, she asked Dr. Levin if she could say a few words about her own thoughts on this occasion. “Take time to learn about each other,” Humphrey said. “Take the time to get to know people around you. Time is just too short.”

In the end, it was a story told by Daniels’ sister Ella Doran that articulated a common theme in each of the speakers’ stories. each speaker’s. Doran said that her parents once told her, “Jean was the model daughter, a faithful sister, a loving aunt. Our family has been blessed by her warmth and giving spirit.”

An invitation posted on the CSUN Department of Social Work website to attend today’s memorial service describes Daniels in almost the exact same way. “Dr. Daniels was a trailblazer, a role model, a mentor and an inspiration to so many of us in the field of social work.”

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