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Mary Ann Quaranta (1926 - 2009)

Dr. Mary Ann Quaranta "made a difference" in "exploring new territories," " constructing bridges between individuals, families, communities and organizations," and provided a "role model for future generations of social workers." She was recognized both within and outside the social work profession for her important contributions to social work education and practice.  She received her BS from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, her MSS from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, and her DSW from Columbia University.

Dr. Quaranta served as Dean of the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service for twenty five years. After "retirement" in 2000, she assumed the position of Provost at Marymount College and was able to integrate successfully this small Catholic undergraduate women's college with Fordham, a larger more diverse Jesuit university.

Founded in 1917, Fordham Graduate School of Social Service is one of the oldest social work schools in the country. During Dr. Quaranta's tenure as Dean, she transformed the School of Social Service from a small, local school to a large, nationally recognized school of social work that provides BSW, MSW and PhD social work education. Under her leadership, the Graduate School of Social Service was consistently highly ranked in the US World and News Report and led the university in the most funding of any of the graduate or undergraduate programs.

One of her achievements as Dean was the school's receipt of the prestigious National Institute of Mental Health research grant with a focus on Hispanic Mental Health. Fordham was the eighth social work school in the country to be awarded this grant and the only one without a university medical school. It was Dr. Quaranta's vision, as well as persistence and motivation, that made this grant possible, even when school administrators, faculty, community people, and even NEVIH staff members were initially pessimistic that it could be achieved. The founding of this Center was most relevant as Hispanics are the fastest growing immigrant group. This Center was another illustration of Dr. Quaranta's ongoing commitment to, and concern about disadvantaged, oppressed, and frequently under serviced populations.

Also under her leadership she developed many new programs, including a full social work program in Tarrytown, as well as a Saturday program to enable social service workers who are employed full time the opportunity to pursue professional social work education. Over the years she partnered with many community agencies to provide research, education, and training. One example was her collaboration with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to develop a supervisor mentoring training program with Fordham faculty members as instructors. Always an advocate for children, she founded CHILDREN F.I.R.S.T. the Children and Families Institute for Research, Support, and Training. She was also instrumental in the development of the Ravazzin Center for Social Work Research on Aging and the Institute for Managed Care and Social Work.

Dr. Quaranta demonstrated many social work skills in bringing together diverse groups. One example of this was her initiation of the Interdisciplinary Center for Family and Child Advocacy in collaboration with the Law School and the National Center for Schools and Communities with the School of Education.

In terms of other leadership responsibilities, Dr. Quaranta chaired the Accreditation Commission of the Council of Social Work Education, as well as the National Deans and Directors Association. In these positions she continually stressed the importance of field work experience and commitment to vulnerable populations as crucial to social work education and practice.

Dr. Quaranta's achievements were in the practice, as well as academic community. On a national level, she served as President of the National Association of Social Workers, Vice President of the North American International Federation of Social Workers, and president of Catholic Charities, USA. Because of her outstanding accomplishments, she received many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement award from the Council on Social Work Education, as well as the National Association of Social Workers (2000).

Dr. Quaranta began her professional career as a clinician and then as a supervisor and field instructor. Before assuming the deanship she was the Director of Field Instruction. Dr. Quaranta long recognized that social work education could only occur in partnership with a strong practice community. Dr. Quaranta maintained strong ties with the practice community though her leadership positions on the Boards of the United Way of New York, co-chair of the Research Advisory Board, Board Member of the Catholic Health Care Network, and member of the Research Advisory Committee, Administration of Children Services. Her social work skills in interpersonal communication and advocacy, as well as her commitment to social work values, helped her promote community social work services on the many boards where she was frequently the only professional social worker.

With a deep commitment to children and families who are frequently the most disadvantaged when there are cutbacks in social services, Dr. Quaranta frequently assumed an advocacy role to insure continued services to the most vulnerable members of our society. Social work professionals frequently question the compatibility of public social services with social work values. Dr. Quaranta used her position on the Research Advocacy Committee of the Administration for Children, the public child welfare agency in New York City, to help develop public sector child welfare services that incorporated the values and skills of professional social work practice. She also tirelessly advocated in legislative, administrative, professional, and corporate circles for the professional education of caseworkers in public and voluntary child welfare agencies.

A true leader has vision and often anticipates future directions before they become widely known and accepted. While the social work profession has only recently recognized the importance of evidence-based practice, Dr. Quaranta long championed the use of research as relevant and helpful to the practice community. Throughout her professional career, she worked creatively to bring the academic and practice communities closer together in research and training projects of mutual concern. She was not one to say "It has never been done that way," but rather how can we explore and begin to work on new solutions to social service problems and issues.

Above all, Dr. Quaranta demonstrated an ongoing commitment to enduring social work values, especially respect for the unique dignity and worth of all people. What was truly impressive was that despite Dr. Quaranta's many national and local responsibilities, she was always available to meet with social workers and others from the academic and practice community.

Over her long career she successfully mentored numerous social work practitioners and educators, several of whom are now Executive Directors of agencies and Deans of Schools of Social Work. She continually demonstrated respect in all her interactions, with professionals, para-professionals, as well as support staff.

Dr. Quaranta held various positions in state and national NASW over the years.  She was chairperson, New York Chapter Continuing Education Committee and was a delegate to three Delegate Assemblies.  She was president of NASW from 1981-1983.  Other professional affiliations have included Council of Social Work Education, National Conference on Social Work, National Conference of Catholic Charities, National Conference of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, American Association of University Professions, and New York Board of Social Welfare.

GSS Celebrates the Life of Former Dean Mary Ann Quaranta

NASW