Alvin L. Schorr, PhD, whose illustrious social work career spanned more than six decades, including at the Mandel School from 1979 through 1991 serving in distinction as the Leonard W. Mayo Professor of Family and Child Welfare, passed away on February 13, 2016, at the age of 94 at his home Charlotte, North Carolina.
On behalf of the Mandel School, Dean Grover “Cleve” Gilmore extended his sympathies to the family and friends of Dr. Schorr. The faculty established a resolution in his memory as a tribute to his tireless work toward social justice and the vast knowledge he imparted to countless social work students who carry on his legacy.
“Alvin was an effective leader in social policy and a gifted intellect. He also was a very kind man. I and all who knew him benefitted from his gracious friendship,” said Dean Gilmore.
A member of the Mandel School Hall of Achievement and named a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Work, Dr. Schorr is renowned as one of the pioneer planners, activists and writers on social policy in the United States. He was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, worked at the highest levels of the federal government, directed one of the nation’s largest volunteer agencies, and served as dean and professor of social work. He began his professional career as a social worker and later served as an executive director for agencies specializing in public assistance, child welfare and family counseling, including the Family Service Association of America.
Dr. Schorr’s career in Washington began in 1958 and continued through the turbulent 1960’s. He started in the Social Security Administration where his work focused on adapting social service programs to fit the needs of the American family. From there he went to the Office of Economic Opportunity, where as Director of Research and Planning, he had a front-line position in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. From 1967 through 1969 he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Individual and Family Services in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Following his government service, Schorr was appointed Dean of the New York University Graduate School of Social Work, worked on the presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern and served as the CEO of the Community Service Society of New York. He has been a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina, Catholic University and the New School for Social Research.
A prolific writer, Schorr published more than 300 articles and ten books, including Welfare Reform: Failure and Remedies in 2001 and his memoir, Passion and Policy, in 1997. He was editor-in-chief of Social Work and wrote for Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and Public Interest among other leading periodicals.
In addition to this list of accomplishments, Alvin L. Schorr had a profound effect as an educator on the next generation of social workers, influencing countless masters and doctoral students in social policy. For all of his achievements he was profiled in the book, Celebrating Social Work: the Faces and Voices of the Formative Years, published in 2003 by the Council on Social Work Education. His concern for children, family, poverty and inequality was recognized when he received the Michael Schwerner Award from the Gleitsman Foundation, recognizing the exceptional achievement of those who have initiated positive social change. The award is named for one of three white civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964.
Mollie Orshansky, a renowned social scientist and economist with the Social Security Administration, who in 1963 developed the official government definition of poverty, said of Alvin: “He may have changed places of work often enough, but he never changed the work that he was doing.” For that single-minded passion to social justice, Alvin L. Schorr will be forever remembered for successfully blending the roles of teaching, research and scholarly service to the benefit of the community, the nation and the world.