Tributes to Professor Steven Schinke

January 17 @ 3:16 pm
By Communications Office

Since we announced the loss of Steven Schinke, the D’Elbert and Selma Keenan Professor of Social Work and senior advisor to our online campus, tributes have been pouring in. We offer a selection of them below. If you’d like to add your own tribute, please post it as a comment.

From Faculty Colleagues

For more than a decade Steven has been my go-to person for anything I was pondering—research, teaching, political issues, whatever, he was always there, always open and welcoming; we shared a passion for the digital world; impossible to overestimate how much I will miss him.
—Kathy Shear, Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry in Social Work

Steven gave me lots of helpful career advice over the past 20 years. One piece that helped me tremendously and that I apply every day was to model successful examples of others’ work rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. I will miss Steven very much as a colleague and a mentor.
—Julien Teitler, Professor of Social Work and Senior Associate Dean

Steven was a role model to me for faculty/administrator collaboration during the past four years while I served as an associate dean. He was warm, understanding, emotionally supportive, and quick to be helpful. It was great fun working with him on leadership of the online campus and also on leadership of the curriculum committee. My only regret is that I never gave him the ice cream that I owed him. I miss you, Steven.
—Craig Schwalbe, Professor of Social Work

Steven Schinke was an early pioneer of prevention science, coming of age as a researcher when social work moved into the ranks of NIH-funded investigators. Steven was funded by the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies for his entire career of four decades, and I would bet money that his laptop contains at least one grant application nearing completion. His success was due in part to his laser focus on preventing health and social problems among adolescents, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. His work ethic was unsurpassed by anyone, his capacity for small talk or extended vacations limited. Many MSW and doctoral students were relieved to just get through his classes; most did not realize that he was so demanding because he cared so much about their learning. The best ones sought him out, and their careers were forever changed for having worked with him. He had the utmost respect for his colleagues, no matter their differing perspectives. Those of us who knew him as a long-haired doctoral student in colorfully patched blue jeans might offer some stories that would surprise those who never saw him without a bow tie—but such recollections are best left for other venues.
—Robert Schilling, Professor Emeritus of Social Welfare at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, and former CSSW Professor

Steven Schinke distinguished himself as a scholar with an enviable track record of externally sponsored research, primarily from the NIH. And, he shared his insights and his foresight as a member of NIH review committees. Steven’s all-too-early passing has left a hole in the heart of the School, where he was elected by his colleagues and recognized and appointed to all the most consequential leadership positions. An “early to bed, early to rise” person, he reminded others, paradoxically, that “the early bird gets the worm”—paradoxically, because he was a strict vegan. He traveled to exotic locations with peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in his luggage—just in case. We will not forget Steven Schinke, his dapper, impeccable style, his suspenders, his wide grin, and his love of Mary and his and Mary Schinke’s Charlotte, one of the luckiest, most beloved bichon frises in the world. But most of all, we will not forget Steven Schinke because he left his imprimatur on the School squarely in the center of its heart.
—Jeanette Takamura, Dean Emerita and Professor

From Online Campus Colleagues

Every online class that he taught was preceded by multiple dress rehearsals, and every video that he created involved many takes, so that he could always offer our students his best. Outside of teaching, Steven was an incredible role model and mentor. He demonstrated what it means to always try to be kind, always try to be positive, and to stay focused on the end goal. His wisdom is imbued throughout the online campus’s operations, as well as throughout CSSW, as he left a lasting impact from his work here over the past 30+ years. I will miss him deeply.
—Matthea Marquart, MSW’05, Director of Administration for the Online Campus

I had the amazing opportunity to work with him for several semesters as his live support specialist for both Statistics and Research Methods. We developed a routine that made the content related and created a space where we could laugh at each other’s corny jokes.
—Krystal Folk, LMSW’15, Online Campus Live Support Specialist

Dr. Schinke and I were co-presenters at [the Columbia School of Social Work’s] Institute on Pedagogy and Technology for Online Courses in Fall 2018. After our presentation, we had a lovely email exchange where he asked me for specific insights on how I deliver my online courses. I was pleasantly surprised that this award-winning maverick of online education was asking me for tips and vowed to implement some of my practices in his own teaching! As I write this I fondly remember feeling his affirming energy in those emails.
—Dawn Shedrick, Online Campus Lecturer (Adjunct)

The opportunity to work with and learn from Professor Schinke was a highlight. His wisdom and presence will be missed!
—Leslie Ince, Online Campus Lecturer (Adjunct)

From Students and Alumni

Steven was a passionate teacher who could make even students’ most dreaded subjects approachable and enjoyable. He sought out opportunities to support his students or colleagues so they could do what they weren’t sure they could. I first took Research Methods with him as a student, then I was a research associate and TA for him. Once I left Columbia, he encouraged me to teach with the online campus, and then he encouraged me once again when I started writing a textbook.
—Amy Batchelor, MSW’14, now an Online Campus Instructor (Adjunct)

I first met Steven in the fall of 2003, when I was enrolled in his Quantitative Research Methods course as a second-year doctoral student. While I am still processing the sudden loss of an incredible mentor, I will always remember Steven’s shining eyes when he described the new things he just learned from an article or a book, and the long yet productive course prep hours we spent together.
—Lin Fang, PhD’05, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

I first met Dr. Schinke during the new student orientation and my first impression was how cool he looked in his bow tie. He was my first professor as an online-campus MSW student: I had him for statistics class. He had a profound impact on my education when he became my research advisor for my independent project about grieving with love and compassion. Dr. Schinke inspired me with his patience, caring, and belief that things would work out in my research even when I felt otherwise. He was a lovely person, and I’m so sad he won’t physically be present when I graduate this year, but I know he will be there in spirit for us all! I will think of him fondly as I continue my social work research. I wish peace and comfort to his family and friends. I feel honored to be (and will always be) a student of Dr. Schinke.
—Sarah Cheney, MSW’19 (Online Campus)

When I wasn’t able to walk the stage for graduation due to travel issues, Professor Schinke personally emailed me and told me he was proud of having been with me for “this part of the adventure.” That really changed my perspective on my life, career, and school.
—Ana Quiñones, MSW’18, Online Campus Live Support Specialist

I had Steven for a research class during my doctoral program, and he was always so kind and encouraging, which was so appreciated, particularly because that time was filled with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.
—Matthew Feldman, MSW’98, PhD’05, Adjunct Assistant Professor

He was one of the most diplomatic email writers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to correspond.
—Peter Hall, MSW’17

I remember when I was in Professor Schinke’s online statistics class. Some find my name difficult to pronounce, and Professor Schinke always made a strong effort to make sure he pronounced it correctly! Although it may sound like something small, it was not. It showed me that he cared about each individual and wanted us to know that we were important.
—Nsima Umana, MSW’08

I will always feel “peachy keen,” to use his words, when I think of this wonderful man.
—Natasha Dachos, MSW’02, former CSSW administrator


A memorial service for Professor Schinke will be held at St. James’ Church, 865 Madison Avenue, on Friday, February 1, at 11:00 a.m. A reception at the church will follow the service. In addition, colleagues at the School of Social Work are organizing an online memorial to take place on Friday, January 25, 8:00–10:00 p.m. EST, offering an occasion for the many online-campus students who knew and loved Steven to pay their last respects. All members of the CSSW community are welcome to join (register here for attendance). And a Festschrift in Professor Schinke’s memory is being planned under the direction of Drs. Nabila El-Bassel, Traci Schwinn, and Allen Zweben.


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