When Nancy Graf decided to retire as director of continuing education at Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, she told Dean Grover "Cleve" Gilmore that her last day would have to be after June 16. She wanted to make sure she had a full 50-year career before beginning the next phase of her life. Her last day at Case Western Reserve will be August 4.
Graf began her social work career on June 16, 1958 at the Cuyahoga County Department of Human Services. Following her retirement from the department nearly 30 years later, she came to Case Western Reserve in 1988 and has since expanded the continuing education program to new levels of success.
Under her direction, the program now holds nearly 100 workshops per year.
"The two previous directors had to split their duties. One was a doctoral student and the other was a member of the school's faculty," Graf said. "Being director has been my only role, which affords me the luxury of time for developing more workshops."
"The Mandel School's good fortune was to snag the former director of social services for the Cuyahoga County Department of Human Services as our director of continuing education," said Gilmore. "Nancy is the social worker's social worker, and her experience brought a richness to our program that served our alumni well. She has been an invaluable adviser to students on their career paths."
Graf points to the social work licensure examination review course in which students and community members are prepared to take and pass their license requirements as one of her proudest moments at the Mandel School.
"We hold these three times a year, and we just finished our 64th review course," she said.
Graf has received numerous awards over the years, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She sits on the social work advisory board at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike and has been involved with the St. Patrick Hunger Center for 20 years. Since a cousin of hers died at an early age two years ago of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), Graf is actively involved with the ALS Association.
Over the last 50 years, Graf has seen growing challenges for social workers. "Cases these days are more severe than in the past," she said, pointing to such issues as drugs, sexual abuse and child abuse and violence.
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