Professor Jerome Dowd founded the School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma. Professor Dowd, a sociologist by training, was a true Renaissance man, and had his hand in the formation of many schools at OU in its early days, including the College of Business Administration; the departments of Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology; and the Schools of Journalism and Social Work. This from a person who did not graduate from college in typical fashion, but obtained a Master of Arts by comprehensive oral examination on all subjects a college graduate should have mastered, 16 years after leaving college.
Influenced by his family and the renowned North Carolina educator Braxton Craven, Professor Dowd held strong beliefs about the value of every person, the value of education, and of social systems that could positively influence even the most vulnerable among us to reach our full potentials. The School of Social Work was one instrument for turning those beliefs into well-educated young men and women who would positively influence the state in its early years.
Professor Dowd was born in North Carolina in the final year of the Civil War to a family of comfortable means. His was a restless intellect, he was a constant and voracious reader, and he worked as a bank clerk and newspaper editor before answering his calling in academia. Dowd became a lecturer in Political Economy (1893-1901) at Trinity College (which became Duke University), travelled to Paris and attended the Sorbonne in 1901, taught Sociology at the University of Wisconsin (1901-1907), and was a Fellow at the University of Chicago (1905-1906), before coming to OU in 1907 in the exciting year of statehood. He was vital to the formation and organization of the first Oklahoma Conference of Social Work (1916) and its reorganization in 1920-21. He also held membership in the American Anthropological Society, the American Sociological Society, the Southwest Political and Social Science Association, and was a member then Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa and a holder of its key.
His public spirit led to his appointment to the Inter-Racial Commission to promote better race relations and prevent lynchings in the early 1920s, and to the State Planning Board in the early 1930s. While he retired formally in 1945 because of his age (81), he never stopped reading, writing, and engaging in stimulating conversation with students and colleagues alike, but remained on faculty in emeritus status until his death in 1952 at age 88.
Along with friends and colleagues across the sciences, Professor Dowd helped OU extend the degrees offered, raise academic standards, and diversify the range of students attending the university. To borrow words from his eulogy, “. . . he helped lay the foundations of Oklahoma and to build the State.” The same should be said of his place in the forming and building of the study and practice of social work at OU and in the state of Oklahoma.
Posted on Fri, January 6, 2017
by Laura Kent filed under