Low Library Rotunda
February 24, 1995
This evening we celebrate the Willma and Albert Musher Chair and Program in a very special way. Family and friends are gathered with faculty, University administrators and social agency professionals to give public recognition to the significance of the ideas represented by this chair and its associated program. These ideas are few, -- but, far-reaching in scope. The essential and core idea is that the highest value should be improving the lives of others. Life betterment is the sole reason for the existence of the Willma and Albert Musher Chair and Program. This will be the measure of success. This chair will be a continuing reminder that the betterment of human life is a core concern of the University.
A second key idea associated with this chair is that science and the knowledge and technology developed through scientific work can contribute to life betterment. This chair is established in perpetuity. Undoubtedly, as the University moves into the next millennium and beyond, ideas will change about how science and technology can be used to enhance human life. The methods of science will change over time as new technologies develop and as values evolve. Just as twentieth century science differs markedly from nineteenth century science, so to, what is considered to be proper science will change in future generations. The idea behind the Chair is not that a particular type of science should be used, but rather that the best of contemporary science be forcefully used for life betterment.
During the 19th and 20th centuries science and technology have been used to promote life betterment in many ways. Witness the remarkable accomplishments in physics, chemistry, biology and the varied natural and physical sciences. Also, in the social and behavioral sciences, important advances have been made, resulting in the improvement of human life. Nevertheless, when we consider the core profession that is concerned with life betterment -- in all of life's manifestations -- social work, it is regrettably true that science, scientific knowledge, and technology have been insufficiently developed within that core profession. Yet, social work is the profession whose very purpose is the enhancement of human life. More than other disciplines or professions social work touches on the lives of the nation's population from birth to death. It is indeed unfortunate that the potential contribution to society of the social work profession is so underdeveloped in the areas of science and technology. --- The Chair seeks to redress this situation within social work. --- The Chair focuses specifically on social work as the core profession that deals with life betterment in all of life's complexity. The Chair is unique in that it supports the use of science and technology within the social work profession for the purpose of life betterment. One only needs to think about the current national policy debate regarding the nation's health, education and human services to realize how timely and cost-effective an investment in scientific knowledge and technology in the arena of human services would be. For example, how useful it would be if the social work profession could speak forcefully in the current national debate about how best to deal with problems associated with teen pregnancy or chronic welfare dependency. No other profession reaches more people when they face crises, life transitions, or problems in living. Indeed, enhancing the capacity, effectiveness, and efficiency of social work is a wise investment for the present and for the future.
In summary, then the core ideas behind the Willma and Albert Musher Chair and Program are that the betterment of human life can be fostered through the use of science and technology, and that social work is ideally positioned to serve that purpose.
The establishment of this Chair and Program resulted from an unusually productive relationship between Albert Musher, the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, and the Columbia University School of Social Work. Albert Musher presented his ideas and his commitment to the use of science and technology for life betterment, first, to the Community Education Division of the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. At the Jewish Board, Jonathan Katz and Vicki Rosenstreich, through Mr. Musher's support, were able to expand their community education programs. Building upon the affiliation between the Jewish Board and the Columbia University School of Social Work, and especially, the affiliation's Center for the Study of Social Work Practice, the idea for the University Chair and Program quickly developed. The establishment of this Chair and Program is a lasting tribute to the very special relationship that has been established between the Jewish Board, the University, and Albert Musher.
I conclude my remarks on a personal note. It should be clear from my comments and those of Dean Feldman and Provost Cole that the University, the School, and the social work profession will be forever grateful to Albert Musher for his ideas and his support. Beyond these formalities and institutional benefits is something of at least equal, indeed, of even greater value, and that is the deep and trusting relationship that has been established between Albert Musher and all of his friends at the School. I have marveled at how all those who have met him at the School -- faculty, doctoral students, and staff -- have come away knowing that they have found a friend. We at the School of Social Work know that we have found a colleague in our common purpose of life betterment. This chair and program will be a permanent reminder - of the legacy of the Willma and Albert Musher family, -- of the commitment of this family to the welfare of others, -- and, to the vitality of the Musher Concept.