Yeshiva University Establishes Scholarship Fund in Honor of Sheldon Gelman, Longest Serving Dean of Any North American Social Work School
Some 40-plus years ago, Sheldon Gelman was starting what he envisioned would be a long and fulfilling career as a social worker, providing counseling and services to children with special needs and disabilities at an agency in central Pennsylvania. As part of his work, he was also asked to help supervise a group of social work students from nearby Penn State University.
What hasn’t been a fluke has been Gelman’s unparalleled success over the past 21 years as the dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. Indeed, when he steps down from the position—formally the Dorothy and David I. Schachne Deanship—in September to return to research and teaching, he will have already been the longest tenured current dean of a social work school in North America by many years.
“The length of my tenure is certainly unusual,” said Gelman. “The average term of service for a social work school dean is about five years, so I’ve quadrupled that. What can I say, I’ve loved the job.”
And the students, faculty, alumni—not to mention his many peers in the social work profession—love him. Indeed, in his honor, Yeshiva University has established the Dr. Sheldon R. Gelman Scholarship Fund and, thanks to the generosity of so many of those who have been touched by Gelman over the years, more than $125,000 has already been donated for the initiative. Monies from the fund will be used to provide scholarship support for future generations of social work students.
Recently, the New York State Assembly has issued a proclamation in Gelman’s honor and he has received an official letter from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognizing his service. He was also presented with awards from the Latino Task Force of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the New York City Children’s Services. In 2009, he was named a “Social Work Pioneer “ by NASW and last year was elected a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.
“For nearly a quarter of a century, Dean Sheldon Gelman has nurtured, sustained and advanced Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work into a force for good, the impact of which is felt around the world,” said YU President Richard M. Joel. “With passion and commitment, Dean Gelman has championed the nobility of his profession and sent forth thousands of students to serve humanity.”
Dr. and Mrs. Schachne echoed these sentiments, noting that it has been a “great honor to have Dean Gelman as the first Schachne Dean at Wurzweiler. Through his life’s work of giving teachers and students the tools to help those in need, Dean Gelman has represented Yeshiva University with the highest distinction…Dean Gelman has been our guide, our mentor and our leader, as well as our friend. Although he is retiring, we know that his teachings and example will endure in the acts of those who follow. We are grateful to him and wish him and his family health and peace.”
“Twenty-one years ago, when Sheldon Gelman was inducted as dean, he entered the office knowing that ours was a school with a solid reputation,” said Dr. Norman Linzer, the Samuel J. & Jean Sable Professor of Jewish Family Social Work at Wurzweiler. “And over the years, he raised the stature and reputation—so much so that at a recent site visit by the Council on Social Work Education we were told we were the best school in the country. Such an achievement attests to the spirit of gevurah [heroism] with which he has endowed this school. In his own quiet, self-effacing way, he took a very good school and made it a great one.”
While he said he is “profoundly moved” by the outpouring of support in his honor, Gelman noted that his years at Wurzweiler have been filled with one highlight after another. He said he is especially proud that the school was among the first in the nation to address the physical and mental health and public policy challenges of HIV/AIDS and to champion Black-Jewish and Hispanic-Jewish dialogue.
Gelman said he also takes particular pride in the passion and commitment of Wurzweiler students, faculty and alumni, “all of whom do our school and our university proud,” he stressed. “And I’ve also enjoyed working with faculty and administrators in other YU schools on a number of multidisciplinary programs and initiatives, as well as with faculty and administrators at other social work schools on efforts to promote and further the profession.”
Gelman, himself, has done much towards achieving this end. He has held office and served on national commissions of the Council for Social Work Education, NASW, National Association of Social Work Deans, and American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Gelman has been involved in social services research and has served as a consultant to various legislative and administrative bodies. He has conducted extensive research and published more than 100 professional journal articles and book chapters on topics related to social policy, developmental disabilities, human service delivery systems, liability issues in non-profit organizations, ethics, and child abuse.
That Gelman has been able to accomplish all this while running one of the most prestigious social work schools in the country—an institution that has graduated more than 7,000 social work professionals who occupy positions of leadership in Jewish communal organizations, social welfare agencies in the private and public sector, clinical social work, the clergy and private practice—is testament to his abiding commitment, creative leadership and far-reaching vision.
So, what’s his secret to longevity and success? “It’s essential to surround yourself with equally committed and competent people, from fellow administrators to the highest quality faculty,” said Gelman. “Of course, I would also note how important it is to keep your eye on the budget and not to give up your academic interest. And, most of all, never stay in the same office for too long. You collect way too much stuff to have to move!”
For more information about the Dr. Sheldon R. Gelman Scholarship Fund or to make a donation contact Doris Holz at firstname.lastname@example.org.