Educator and Pioneer David M. Austin Dies

David M. AustinSocial workers are mourning the loss of NASW Social Work Pioneer® David M. Austin, a former faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin who specialized in social work education.

Austin died May 29, 2008, in Berea, Ky., following a battle with cancer, according to the university. He was 84.

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

The report remains one of the most important and long-lasting projects in professional social work, according to Barbara W. White, dean of the university’s School of Social Work. It was this initiative, she said, that led the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to establish research development grant programs that have supported research activities in social work programs around the country, among them the University of Texas at Austin.

“In his brilliant career, David has left a magnificent legacy in the students whom he mentored, taught and inspired,” White said. “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 School of Social Work.”

Austin served on the NASW Board of Directors; the Educational Planning Commission of the Council on Social Work Education; the Board of Directors of the American Public Welfare Association; and the Board of Directors of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. He was also recognized by NASW with the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research in 1992 and by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) with the Significant Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Austin’s wide-spanning efforts started as far back as the early 1960s. He directed a planning team in Cleveland, which prepared the first comprehensive community-based action proposal funded under President John F. Kennedy’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. The program became known as Community Action for Youth. He entered Brandeis University’s Florence Heller Graduate School in 1965 and received a Ph.D. in social welfare in 1969.

He taught social work at Western Reserve University, Smith College, Boston University, Brandeis University, the University of Tennessee, Boston College and Rockefeller College, State University of New York at Albany.

Austin is survived by his wife, Zuria Farmer Austin, two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.