The Columbia School of Social Work mourns the passing of James O. Hackshaw, who taught community organizing and urban community development at our School for 27 years. He died in February at his home in Old Bridge, New Jersey, at the age of 95.

Dr. Hackshaw began lecturing at Columbia University’s School of Social Work in 1961, while he and his wife pursued doctorates from New York University. As a professor of community organizing and planning, he trained Peace Corps volunteers who had received assignments in Colombia and Venezuela. When Columbia University approved the School of Social Work’s participation in training Volunteers in Service of America, now known as AmeriCorps VISTA, he was tasked with directing the program in urban community development.

While he dedicated most of his time at Columbia to teaching, he also served on an advisory board for a documentary on the history of African Americans cosponsored by Columbia and CBS.

After his retirement from the School of Social Work in 1988, Dr. Hackshaw began his second career at a local library following receipt of a graduate degree from the Columbia School of Library Service.

In 2011, he founded the Eugenia Hackshaw Scholarship in memory of his late wife. The Hackshaw Scholarship provides tuition assistance each year for students at the Columbia School of Social Work.

Although Dr. Hackshaw spent most of his career in the United States, he was Canadian by birth. Born in Toronto in 1922, he enlisted for military service in 1939 and, after his discharge, toured across Europe as a flute and piccolo player for the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. He attended classes at the University of London before returning to Canada, where he completed a BSW at the University of Toronto in 1948.

He left Canada again to pursue an MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. At that time, he joined the American Service Institute of Pennsylvania, which assisted post-World War II immigrants seeking to become naturalized citizens of the United States. He relocated to Philadelphia in 1953 to serve as Director of Operations for the Health and Welfare Council of North-Central Philadelphia, and was later appointed as the assistant director of the Philadelphia District.

In the longest period of his career, as an academic at our School, Dr. Hackshaw was beloved by his students and colleagues for the generosity of spirit he shared with everyone around him, the connections he inspired within and beyond our community, and the legacy of service he created both within Columbia and around the world, by training leaders for programs designed to alleviate poverty.

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