In Honor of Sheila Oliver

Melissa Begg
September 27, 2023

Dear CSSW Community,

CSSW lost a wonderful alumna, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, ‘76MS, who passed away this summer at the age of 71.  Social worker, community activist, and politician, Lt. Governor Oliver was passionate about improving the lives of those around her in her local and state community. Let us pay tribute to her and her accomplishments.

Sheila Oliver graduated from CSSW in 1976. After a career in education and experience as executive director of The Leaguers, Inc. (a nonprofit group devoted to providing social services to those in need), Sheila became devoted to advocating for New Jersey communities.  In 2003, she was elected to serve the 34th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly, and in 2010 became the first Black woman to serve as speaker for the New Jersey General Assembly. In 2018, Sheila Oliver became the first Black woman elected as New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor. She ran and won reelection in 2021.

As Lieutenant Governor, she fought for fair and affordable housing, community revitalization, homelessness prevention, and local government services. During her tenure, the Department expanded; various initiatives focused on the federal Opportunity Zones tax incentive, the Main Street New Jersey program, the Neighborhood Preservation Program, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program, and the Urban Enterprise Zone Program. As acting Governor, she signed multiple bills into law, including those that established the Caregiver Task Force as well as legislation within the Juvenile Justice Commission that established the Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youths and Communities Pilot Program, aimed to divert youth from entering and re-entering the juvenile justice system.

In 2019, CSSW had the honor of having Lt. Governor Oliver as commencement speaker (you can read her full speech here). We will always remember her words: “…as you take the reins of leadership all around this country and within our profession, know that you have an obligation to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice.” Lt. Governor Oliver was that voice for many in the State of New Jersey. She was the epitome of a social worker who happened to use politics as a vehicle to do amazing work for her community.  She will be long-remembered as one of our most illustrious alums.

In community,