Gayle Gilchrist James - Social Work Loses A Great Leader

June 3, 2008

With much sadness, the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) announces the passing of Professor Gayle Gilchrist James, MSW, RSW, on May 30, 2008. Gayle and her outstanding contributions are known around the world.

Early in her academic career, Gayle invested much energy and skill into the Alberta Association of Social Workers, now the Alberta College of Social Workers, first as registrar (1974-1977) and then as president (1979-1981). She later served as CASW president from 1981 to 1983 and was a founding member of the Canadian Social Work Foundation.

Gayle’s leadership at the international level was capped by becoming the first Canadian president of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), a position she held from 1988 to 1992. During this time, she presided over two international conferences and founded the IFSW Human Rights Commission.

Gayle received her first degree in Alberta and went on to complete her BSW (1963) and MSW (1966) at the University of Toronto. Her early social work practice was in mental health and school settings. In 1975 Gayle became associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary in Edmonton, and after 1995 in Calgary, where her academic and professional contributions inspired countless students. In partnership with others, she was a leading pioneer in the emergence of international social work and guided the faculty’s program toward a unique focus on international declarations and conventions.

Through her community service, Gayle also demonstrated leadership and innovation. Organizations that benefited from her knowledge and dedication over the years include the Institute of Law Research and Reform, the Canadian Council on Social Development, the International Council on Social Welfare, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, and the Richard Weiler Trust Foundation Award. Gayle served as chair of the National Council of Welfare from 1986 to1989 and was a senior NGO delegate on the Minister of Health and Welfare's social policy mission to the Republic of China. She was the only woman and the only NGO member of Canada’s delegation to the 1987 UN meeting in Vienna of Ministers Responsible for Social Welfare, the first global gathering of ministers and senior policy makers since 1968.

Gayle has received numerous awards and accolades throughout the years, each reflecting the respect and admiration of her colleagues across Canada and around the world. These include the Pulse of Social Work Lifetime Achievement Award (2008), IFSW Inaugural Andrew Mouravieff Apostol Award (2004), the National Social Work Week Distinguished Service Award (2000), the Students’ Union Award of Teaching Excellence (1995), and the CASW Award for Outstanding National Service (1992).

We remember Gayle as a committed social worker, as well as an inspirational speaker who could always motivate colleagues and generate enthusiasm among them to get involved and promote excellence in the profession.

Eugenia Repetur Moreno S.W., M.S.W. (Equiv.), R.S.W. 

Executive Director