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School of Social Work to celebrate 100 years of giving hope and changing lives

The Indiana University School of Social Work will host a day-long celebration of its 100th anniversary Oct. 24 on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The event marks a highlight in a story that began in June 1911, when a letter from Indiana University President William Lowe Bryan arrived at the home of Edna Henry asking if she would be interested in a position in a new department the university was setting up: the Department of Social Service.

Social Work Anniversary

A banner in downtown Indianapolis publicizes the 100th anniversary of the IU School of Social Work.

The Social Service Department would work with the School of Medicine at the City Dispensary and with the deserving poor who came to the medical school, Bryan explained. "Work of this character has been inaugurated with much success at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston," he noted.

Henry readily agreed to serve as the department's first director, and it opened in September 1911, placing Indiana University at the forefront of a movement to transform the lives of the poor, ill and disabled. The decision makes today's Indiana University School of Social Work the oldest professional social work education program in the United States begun and continuously functioning as part of a university.

A century later, the impact of the school can readily be seen in its students and alumni who have dedicated themselves to give hope and change lives of people in need.

The Social Service Department started with one person, a desk and a telephone, but the School of Social Work now offers social work and labor studies programs on campuses across Indiana and is one of the nation's leading schools of social work.

The school's Alumni Association has been hard at work planning activities throughout the state with the culmination coming Oct 22-23 with activities in Bloomington and Indianapolis. On Monday Oct. 24, the focus turns to the IUPUI campus where students, graduates, faculty and staff will get a chance to pause, reflect, re-connect and celebrate a century of accomplishments.

The day will start with a three-hour Continuing Education Conference where faculty will touch on the past, present and future of the school. At 6:30 p.m., participants will gather at Scholar's Hall at University Place Hotel for a reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The guest speaker will be James Morris, the former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

Registration for the Oct. 24 celebration is available online at