Sunday, July 23, 2006


By the mid-1970s both of my parents were on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh in the School of Social Work. My father’s area of specialization was criminal justice, while my mother specialized in children and youth. My father pushed hard to keep the profession of social work involved in the rehabilitation of prisoners, even during a time that states were moving away from an emphasis on rehabilitation. My mother was instrumental in promoting the role of social workers in schools; she realized that children came from a larger context of social and community influences that impacted a child’s physical and psychological preparedness to learn. I remember many dinners where they would talk about the politics of the university. It was “boring adult talk” as far as I was concerned; I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But through these conversations they kept each other sane and were able to coordinate their activities in what I later came to understand was a highly political and often duplicitous environment that, outward images to the contrary, was not always favorable or encouraging when it came to minority achievement.

Both my mother and my father were sociable people. My father was known for his sense of humor and his love of stories, while my mother was known for her love of entertaining guests. She prepared elaborate dinners and attended to details to the point where some guests would express concern that she was not taking enough time to enjoy the meal. Both parents enjoyed company – my father played the role of the playful instigator. He knew how to get his friends worked up, but never in a demeaning or mean-spirited way. My mother would particularly come alive around children; she shared their openness and enthusiasm for life, and would take time to make sure they were enjoying themselves as much as the adults. They both shared and spread laughter.

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