Faculty, staff mourn passing of former SSW Dean, Professor

Friday, Apr 17, 2020

A former dean of the UTA School of Social Work who was a passionate advocate for university-community partnerships has died.

Paul Harold Glasser, an early supporter of the Center for Clinical Social Work, which offers counseling to Arlington and Grand Prairie school children, passed away April 8 in Riverdale, New York, his home state.

He was 90.

Glasser was named dean of the UTA School of Social Work in 1978. At the time, the School was a decade old and conferred a single degree, the Master of Science in Social Work.

He remained the School’s top administrator for 10 years, a time frame during which he oversaw the addition of a doctoral degree program and initiated plans to add a bachelor’s program, faculty said.  “During Dr. Glasser's deanship, from 1978 to 1988, the Social Work student body began its growth from the small Masters program to what we have today, a nationally-acclaimed program with Bachelor’s, Masters and doctoral levels,” said Catheleen Jordan, a professor in the School.  

Social Work Dean Scott Ryan praised Glasser’s influential work in the field in a statement emailed this week to faculty.

Glasser is author of Families in Crisis and Group Workers at Work: Theory and Practice in the 80’s which are considered best practice guides for teachers, clinical Social Work practitioners and university students.

The books, published in 1970 and 1986 respectively, still were being sold this week on Amazon.

“Many of us have heard of him,” Ryan said in his statement sent to faculty. “He had a significant impact on our School of Social Work and the profession.”

Across the country, Social Work researchers mourned Glasser’s passing.

In New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he worked as dean of the Rutgers School of Social Work from 1988 to 1992, Glasser’s colleague Associate Professor Raymond Sanchez Mayers called him “a leading figure in social work and social work education” and “a man of great integrity and intellect.”

“As a dean, he believed in faculty governance and equity,” Mayers said this week.  “At both UT-Arlington and Rutgers, he made great efforts to increase the numbers of women, African American and Hispanic faculty.”

At UTA, Jordan recalled that is was Glasser who hired her in 1985 shortly after she completed her doctoral studies, first as a visiting assistant professor and then, a year later, as a tenure-track assistant professor of Social Work.

“I will ever be grateful to him for his confidence in me,” she said.

It was Glasser’s nature, some faculty said, to be both administrator and mentor.

Associate Professor Randy Basham met Glasser while interviewing at Rutgers as an early career academic. Glasser was among his sponsors during his interview process, escorting him over the weekend and showing him around the New Jersey and New York areas.

“I did my dissertation on group work. He was fascinated,” Basham recalled. “He kept asking me questions about my work.”

Basham eventually took a job at UTA. However, he had gained a friend and colleague in Glasser.

“He kept in touch with me,” Basham said. “I see him as a senior VIP, an important person, a seminal scholar who took an interest in my early work.”

While in Arlington, Glasser envisioned the School’s clinical social workers providing counseling services to residents who lived in the communities surrounding the university.

He set aside consistent funding for the then fledgling Community Service Clinic, which offered affordable counseling for families and children. The Clinic, which since has been renamed the Center for Clinical Social Work, now partners with area school districts to provide free professional counseling to students in crisis.

“Dr. Glasser supported the development of School of Social Work centers that served the community,” Dr. Jordan said. “These received recognition as early academic-community partnerships.  The Community Service Clinic, now as the Center for Clinical Social Work, is still alive today serving the Arlington Independent School District.”

Glasser was born in the Bronx, New York. He graduated at 19 from City College of New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a medical social worker and later earned the rank of first lieutenant. 

He earned a Master of Social Work degree at Columbia University and a doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Glasser was a professor from 1958 to 1978 at the University of Michigan. It was in 1978 that he was named dean of the UTA School of Social Work, where he remained until 1988.

Glasser brought his family with him to Texas, including a son, daughter and his wife, who also worked for the university’s Continuing Education department.

“It was a bit of culture shock for all of us, moving from the liberal hotbed of Ann Arbor (Mich.) deep into the heart of Texas, but we all plunged right in,” said Frederick Glasser this week of his father, sister and mother.

“I remember my dad being concerned that he would become so wrapped up in administrative work that he would have to let go of teaching and writing, which were his true passions,” he said. “But Dad worked hard to advance the school and was very proud of some of his accomplishments at UT-Arlington, including bringing in a more diverse faculty, managing to hire top level professors and dramatically increasing the number of faculty publications at the school.”

Glasser left UTA to become dean at Rutgers, serving in that role until 1992. He became an endowed chair at Rutgers School of Social Work until 2008, when he later was named professor emeritus.

Rutgers School of Social Work Dean Cathryn C. Potter said this week “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Glasser, a luminary in the field of social work.”

“Dr. Glasser had a profound impact during his tenure at Rutgers School of Social Work,” she said. “Among many accomplishments, he was steadfast in his pursuit of increasing equality and diversity at all levels throughout the School. His remarkable legacy will continue to live on at the School of Social Work and within the field for generations.”

After retiring, Glasser lived in Israel for several years but later returned to his native New York.

Glasser was the recipient of three Fulbright Hays scholarships.

He conducted pioneering research in group behavior and dynamics, marriage and family, child welfare and the patient interview process. He authored more than 100 scholarly articles and wrote numerous books, including the classic Individual Change Through Small Groups, Group Workers at Work: Theory and Practice in the 80s and The First Helping Interview: Engaging the Client and Building Trust.

He leaves to cherish his memories two children, Heather and Frederick; three grandchildren, Joshua, Miriam and Everett; and beloved nieces and nephews, Robin, Amy, and Stephen.