Remembering Tony Tripodi: Alumnus, Educator, and Supporter

February 11 @ 8:41 pm
By Communications Office

The Columbia School of Social Work mourns the loss of esteemed alumnus Tony Tripodi, who endowed a prestigious lecture series and contributed to our School’s doctoral program.

Many of Columbia School of Social Work’s doctoral graduates are appointed to leading positions at schools of social work across the country. Tony Tripodi, who received his DSW from the School in 1963, served as dean of the Ohio State University College of Social Work from 1995 to 2005. But even as his career took off, he never forgot the role our School played in molding him as an academic, and he made a gift to our doctoral program and endowed an annual lecture series in international social work, an area of growing interest to many of our students.

By the time Tripodi died January 22 at the age of 87, his relationship with our School had flourished for over fifty years. He was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2009, and, thanks to his generosity, we now have a lecture series and a study room in our ninth-floor doctoral program space that bear his name.

In a statement, Dean Melissa Begg said, “The Columbia School of Social Work takes great pride in the success of its alums, and Dr. Tony Tripodi is an outstanding example of our graduates’ dedication to social justice, both locally and globally. His gifts to our doctoral program and the Tripodi Lecture Series in International Social Work are an enduring testament to his contributions to the School and the field.”

In a tribute, current OSU College of Social Work Dean Tom Gregoire called Dr. Tripodi a “fierce advocate” who “raised the reputation of our college” and a mentor who “saw potential in individuals before they saw it in themselves.”

READ: “A message from Dean Tom Gregoire” (posted on Facebook, January 30, 2020)

“A Giant in Social Work Education”

In addition to his deanship at Ohio State, Dr. Tripodi’s career as a teacher, administrator, and researcher brought him to the University of Michigan, the University of Pittsburgh, and Florida International University. He published 30 books as well as over 100 chapters, articles, editorials, and research notes in various areas including social work research and utilization, evaluation, and clinical judgment. Tripodi also served as editor of Social Work Research and Abstracts and of The Journal of Social Work Research and Evaluation: An International Publication.

Later in his career, he was honored as professor emeritus at Ohio State and as a visiting professor at Hunter College in New York and at the University of California, Berkeley. At that point, he turned to writing about nonacademic subjects that intrigued him, publishing a book of poems and vignettes about his travels in Italy as well as a memoir about his brother, a well-known gambler.

Dean Emerita and Professor Jeanette Takamura recalls Tripodi as “a giant in social work education and research.” She adds:

“What I loved about Tony is that he deeply and genuinely loved the School—his alma mater. So much so that he gifted the School twice—once so we could establish a lecture series in his name focused on international social work education and research, in which he wanted the School to have the resources to bring new ideas to push us forward globally. And second, he gifted the School with the opportunity to dedicate the doctoral study space in his name because he cared about preparing new generations of scholars and educators. When I walk by that area, I will always remember Professor Tony Tripodi, our alumnus, warmly.”

Ronald A. Feldman, Ruth Harris Ottman Centennial Professor for the Advancement of Social Work Education and Dean Emeritus, recalls working with Tripodi in the early 1990s on the landmark NIMH Task Force on Social Work Research, of which Feldman was vice chair. Says Professor Feldman, “I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand and over a period of years Tony’s wisdom, passion, and hard work on behalf of our profession. His labors resulted in a groundbreaking NIMH Report that profoundly advanced social work by yielding many millions of dollars in federal support for social work research, the birth of numerous research development centers across the U.S., and significant advances in the quality of social work research and education.”

A Prestigious and Forward-Looking Lecture Series

The Tony Tripodi Lecture Series in International Social Work focuses on research projects, issues, and trends in international social welfare and social work, including applications of international research to social policy, social work practice, and social work administration. Dominique Hyde, deputy director of UNICEF’s Public Partnership Division, presented the inaugural lecture in 2015, on the deinstitutionalization of children in Syria and surrounding countries (view Livestream video). There have been four more lectures since then:

  • 2016: Columbia University President Emeritus George E. Rupp, “Social Service in a Pluralistic World” (video)
  • 2017: Elizabeth Pender, USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, “Calling on International Social Workers to Address Gender-Based Violence” (video)
  • 2018: Ameerah Haq, former UN under-secretary-general for the Department of Field, “Support Social Work in International Crisis Settings: Can/Does It Work?” (video)
  • 2019: Vishanthie Sewpaul, senior professor at the University of KwaZulu in South Africa, “Politics of Hope in a World Divided: Social Work and the Legacy of Nelson Mandela” (video)

Our condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of Tony Tripodi. He lived his life well and with purpose, the best we could wish for any graduate of our School. He will be missed.