In Memoriam: David M. Austin

May 30, 2008

NASW Social Work Pioneer® David M. Austin Dies


Dr. David M. Austin, a pioneer in the field of social work education and a former faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin, died May 29 in Berea, Ky, following his battle with cancer. He was 84.

Austin was among the first social work students supported through the GI Bill following World War II. In 1963, he directed a planning team in Cleveland, which prepared the first comprehensive community-based action proposal funded under President Kennedy’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. The program became known as Community Action for Youth.

In addition to the university, Austin taught social work at Western Reserve University, Smith College, Boston University, Brandeis University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Boston College, and Rockefeller College, State University of New York at Albany.

Austin joined the university’s School of Social Work in 1973 and held the Bert Kruger Smith Centennial Professorship. During his 24 years at the university, he served as acting dean of the School of Social Work (1991-93) and was director of the school’s Center for Social Work Research from 1974-79. He received numerous teaching awards including UT-Austin’s Lora Lee Pederson Teaching Excellence Award and University Outstanding Graduate Teach ing Award and was honored nationally for his research, particularly in the area of human service management. His scholarship, especially his 1988 book, “The Political Economy of Human Service Programs,” has provided the seminal statement on the distinguishing characteristics of human service organizations.

From 1988 to 1991, Austin served as chairman of the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Social Work Research, which produced an extensive report with far-reaching recommendations for changes in the organization of research within the profession of social work.

The report remains one of the most important and long-lasting projects in professional social work, according to Dr. Barbara W. White, dean of the university School of Social Work. It was this initiative, she said, that led the National Institute on Drug Abuse to establish the research grant program that has supported research activities of many faculty in social work programs around the country, among them UT-Austin.

“In his brilliant career, David has left a magnificent legacy in the students whom he mentored, taught and inspired,” said White. “He was a leading scholar in the field of social work and his profound contributions have been recognized through numerous awards.

“It was David’s work, in fact, that led to the strengthening of the doctoral program and research center at the university School of Social Work.”

The National Association of Social Workers named Austin a Social Work Pioneer® in 1997.

He is survived by his wife, Zuria Farmer Austin, and two sons, Clayton Austin and Paul Austin, a daughter, Dr. Judith Austin, and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service to be held on The University of Texas at Austin campus later this summer or early in the fall is being planned.

Click here to view David’s NASW Social Work Pioneer® Profile.

To leave a tribute to David, please click on the comments link below.

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