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Sheldon Siegel, dean emeritus of the Indiana University School of Social Work at IUPUI, remembered

Sheldon Siegel
Sheldon Siegel


September 4, 2012

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  • Rob Schneider
    IU School of Social Work

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Sheldon Siegel, dean emeritus of the Indiana University School of Social Work at IUPUI, had a lifelong passion for social justice, love for his family and compassion for older people whom he worked tirelessly to help.

Siegel served as dean of the School of Social Work from 1985 to 1994 and as interim dean from 1999 to 2000. He expanded the school’s role in the community, helped create the state’s only social work doctoral program and pushed for greater diversity on the IUPUI campus.

Siegel died Aug. 26, 2012, at the age of 83.

Before arriving at IU, Siegel had spent six years as the director of the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work and before that served as an associate professor and director of admissions at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.Upon his arrival in Indianapolis , Siegel established an aggressive agenda to expand and enhance the school’s academic stature and its impact on the lives of struggling Hoosiers.

His agenda included seeing the school’s long-held hopes for a doctoral program fulfilled, with the first cohort of Ph.D. students beginning coursework in 1994; developing community-based projects; providing continued support for Council of International Programs; further developing the statewide MSW and BSW program; expanding the research mission of the school; and supporting the reactivation of the school’s alumni association.

A year after arriving at IU in 1985, Siegel began discussions with the Indianapolis Foundation to develop community-based programs. The school submitted a proposal to establish a model social services program for public housing residents and demonstrate the utility of such service to the public housing administration. Funding by the Indianapolis Foundation supported a faculty field instructor and student interns. The project lasted about five years.

In 1992-93, then-Gov. Evan Bayh appointed Siegel to chair the newly established Commission on Abused and Neglected Children to be led by a School of Social Work faculty member . Apart from recommendations to the state for increased numbers of caseworkers, better education, improved emergency room evaluation and care, it was recommended that an organization be formed to monitor the implementation of the recommendations. The Children’s Coalition was formed to do that.

The Council on International Programs also flourished during Siegel's tenure as president of the council from 1991 to 1995. The program is credited with bringing hundreds of human service professionals from more than 80 countries to the IUPUI campus.

“Sheldon demonstrated his commitment to social and economic justice,” said Lorraine Blackman, an associate professor of social work. “I for one am eternally grateful to him and (wife) Natalie. Their hospitality across these 20 years has sustained me.”

“Thinking of Sheldon always brought a smile,” said Marion Wagner, the former director of the School’s MSW program. “He was such a nice man and an excellent colleague. When I was new to academic administration -- and to academia in general -- he was a wonderful guide to the arcane protocols and culture of this strange, new world. He helped me understand that some behaviors were due to roles, not just personality. He also served as a guide to some of the material I used in my dissertation, and he provided great support for my dissertation process. … Sheldon was one of the good, kind people, and we will all miss him.”

William Plater, former executive vice chancellor at IUPUI, noted the “exceptional role Sheldon played in helping us develop the engagement work for the campus, especially on the west side that has become such a part of IUPUI’s identity.” The Center for Service and Learning benefitted greatly from his early involvement and leadership, he added.

Despite his pressing duties as Dean, Siegel kept his interest in gerontology very much alive. He had served on the University of Michigan’s Institute of Gerontology, the University of Cincinnati’s Committee on Aging and in 1985 served as chair of the Task Force on Mental Health Needs of Older Hoosiers. He was on the board of the Central Indiana Coalition on Aging from 1997 to 2004, serving as president from 2000 to 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Natalie; his sons, Daniel, Eli and Matthew; and grandchildren, Adah and Nathan. Memorial services took place Aug. 29 at Aaron-Ruben-Nelson Mortuary in Indianapolis. Memorial contributions may be made to the Sheldon and Natalie Siegel Scholarship Fund c/o IU Foundation, PO Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402.