Dr. Shoemaker, Dean Emerita of the School of Social Work
Dr. Louise P. Shoemaker, dean emerita of the School of Social Work (SP2) died on March 19 at the age of 87.
Born in 1925, Dr. Shoemaker graduated from the University of Illinois in 1945 and earned an MSW in 1947 and DSW in 1965, both at Penn.
She joined the University faculty as assistant professor in 1965 and was named associate professor in 1968.
Dr. Shoemaker became acting dean of the then School of Social Work in 1971 and was appointed dean of the School by then President Martin Meyerson in 1973. As Acting Dean, she led the development of a new master of social work degree curriculum and coordinated the establishment of a postdoctoral social work research program. “Louise Shoemaker has demonstrated her wisdom, fairness and devotion to the school and to the University,” President Meyerson said when appointing her Dean in April of 1973. She held that position until 1985 when she became dean emerita. Dr. Shoemaker was the second woman to be dean of Social Work and the fifth woman to be named an academic dean at Penn.
Early in her career, Dr. Shoemaker taught and studied at University of Edinburgh and in Philadelphia, where she worked with public schools to bring social work into classrooms for “problem” children. A substantial part of her earlier experience in social work was in the development of group counseling patterns and procedures for public welfare clients, hospital patients and prison inmates. She worked in settlement houses in Minneapolis, New York City and Bremen, Germany and served as director of a home for emotionally disturbed children in St. Paul, MN. She also headed the staff of the training division of the Baltimore Department of Public Welfare.
While at Penn, she initiated an on-campus day-care center, a faculty/staff assistance progam and a campaign called the Family Maintenance Organization (FMO), which informed individuals and groups in the community of the availability of social, legal and health care services.
“A voice of social consciousness among the deans… [She] has kept all of us aware of our responsibilities as part of a larger community” said then President Sheldon Hackney at the School’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 1985.
As part of her legacy, a grant was created in 2008 in her honor to encourage activism in Africa. The Open Mind grant for Africa awards funding to undergraduates or social work students to pursue studies or projects that further social justice in Africa and raise awareness of African issues, a passion of Dr. Shoemaker’s.
An active member of the Penn community, she was a member of Almanac’s Advisory Board for the Faculty Senate, chosen as Chair-Elect of Faculty Senate for 1990-1991 and became Chair, 1991-1992. She served as president of Penn’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter in 1970 and in 1973 served on the University Council’s Committee on Open Expression. She was a member of the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility and of the President’s Task Force on Women. She was also Chair of the Christian Association’s Board of Directors.
Dr. Shoemaker conducted and wrote over 300 lectures and papers given in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia. She was a charter member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and authored two books. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Uppsala College in East Orange, NJ in 1975.
She is survived by her children, Paul (Susanne), Caroline P. Niemczyk, and Lisa Louise; her grandchildren Dr. Laura P., Anne C., Stephen G., Meredith S. Niemczyk, Elisabeth M.L. Niemczyk and Peter Niemczyk; her foster children, Cam Van Vuong, John Yak (Mary) and Malual Monyok Deng Duot (Martha), her foster grandchildren; her nephew, Peter Paulsen, and his children Madeline, Amelia and Spencer (Margaret); and nephews, Steve, Peter, David and Jon Proehl; her sister-in-law, Virginia Treen Proehl; and her housemates John Jok and Kristen Meyer.
A memorial will be held on June 15 at 2 p.m. at University Lutheran Church, 3637 Chestnut St.