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David M. and Zuria F. Austin Endowed Excellence Fund

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David M. Austin
David M. Austin

The David M. and Zuria F. Austin Endowed Excellence Fund was established in 2009 by his wife and partner, Mrs. Zuria F. Austin, as well as family, friends and colleagues in loving memory of Dr. David M. Austin – a pioneer in the field of social work education and faculty member and dean to The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. In his brilliant career, David left a magnificent legacy in the students whom he mentored, taught, and inspired. Mrs. Zuria Austin said of the endowment, “The David M. and Zuria F. Austin Endowed Excellence Fund is established to extend David’s firm belief in the essential role of research in the planning and delivery of human services.”

Ralph and Helen Austin with their sons David and Donald.
Ralph and Helen Austin with their sons David and Donald.

David was born June 9, 1923 in New Haven, Connecticut where his father, Ralph, was a student at the Yale Divinity School. Following a minister’s career, the family eventually settled in Rhinelander, Wisconsin where David and his younger brother Donald grew up. After graduating from Lawrence College in 1943 and serving as a United States Army clerk in Panama during World War II, David entered the Western Reserve School of Applied Social Sciences in 1946 as one of the first students supported by the G.I. Bill. It was there he and Zuria Farmer met. They were married September 3, 1947. They both received their MSSA in June 1948.

Upon graduation each accepted a position in Cleveland where they lived and worked until 1951. David was a group worker at the University Settlement House, and in the summer, program director and then director of Camp Cleveland. Camp Cleveland, located on property owned by the city, was free to youths who came from settlement houses located in the various sections of Cleveland. It was integrated in all respects. Zuria was a casework councilor at the Youth Bureau of Cleveland working with teenagers.

David and Zuria at their wedding, September 3, 1947.
David and Zuria at their wedding, September 3, 1947.

David and Zuria’s first child, Clayton, was born June 21, 1951. Shortly thereafter, David accepted a position from the United Community Services of Boston, and the family moved to Massachusetts. In Boston, David planned and directed the Roxbury Youth Project.

1957 saw the family, now including daughter Judith Ann, returning to the mid-west where David went to work for the Welfare Federation of Cleveland serving as director of the Hough Community Development Project. Later, as director for the Greater Cleveland Youth Services Planning Commission, David directed the planning of a program named Community Action for Youth (CAY) in 1963. This program was one of the first Demonstration Projects sponsored under the Juvenile Delinquency Act of 1961 and received funding from Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. David also taught at Western Reserve University (now Case-Western Reserve University) until 1966, when he was selected for a National Institute for Mental Health grant.

David and Zuria with their children Clayton, Judith Ann, and Paul.
David and Zuria with their children Clayton, Judith Ann, and Paul.

Taking this opportunity, David and family, including new son Paul, returned to the Boston area as a doctoral student at the Brandeis University Florence Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare. While a student, David was Director of the 1967-1968 OEO Study of Community Representation in Community Action Agencies which evaluated agencies from 20 randomly selected cities across the United States. Completing his PhD in 1969, David continued at the Heller School as a full time faculty member until 1973. 

1973 was a big year for the Austin family. Son Clayton graduated from Brandeis University, daughter Judith Ann entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Paul accompanied his family to Texas where David was invited to join the newly formed doctoral program at the University of Texas School of Social Work (UTSSW) in Austin. Moving from New England to the Lone Star State was quite a transition, but David found his professional home where he would teach until retirement in 1998.

David served as director of the Center for Social Work Research from 1974 to 1979 and served as acting dean from 1991 to 1993. He was appointed the Bert Kruger Smith Centennial Professor in 1986. David’s continued work in the field included serving as Chairman of the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Research from 1988 to 1991.

David completed his PhD in 1969.
David completed his PhD in 1969.

Zuria, who had been employed by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health at the Walter Fernald State School, became involved in advocacy for persons with disabilities in Texas. She served as a member, and later chair, of the legislative committee of the Austin Association of Retarded Citizens and received several volunteer awards for her legislative action at the local and state level. Of special significance was her work on passage of the Community Homes for Disabled Persons Location Act of 1985.

Son Paul bought his first computer in 1979, graduated from the University of Texas in Computer Sciences, established a career in the field, and settled in Austin with his wife Karen and four children.

Upon retirement in 1998, David and Zuria built a “summer home” in Berea, Kentucky, the location of family and friends near Berea College, Zuria’s alma mater. The Berea home became a community center for their children and eight grandchildren who were spread from Texas to Virginia.

The Austin family in front of their Berea Home, 2003.
The Austin family in front of their Berea Home, 2003.

In 2007 Dr. Barbara White, Dean, UTSSW, established the Dr. David M. Austin Research Award. At the September 14, 2007 presentation Dean White commented:

“David Austin is still one of the leading scholars of Social Work. His work on the organization and management to human services organizations has been enormously influential. Among other things, his scholarship, especially his 1998 book, The Political Economy of Human Service Programs, has provided the seminal statement on the distinguishing characteristics of human service organization. His work is responsible for shaping a generation of scholarship on macro practice.”

His leadership in national organizations, his advocacy on a variety of issues, his unswerving dedication to the interests of minorities and women in the field are all part of a distinguished record.

As colleagues across this nation, and beyond, state, David Austin is simply one of the profession’s best scholars, academicians, and citizens.

Even in retirement, David was busy. In addition to playing host and grandparent he continued writing. His Human Services Management—Organizational Leadership in Social Work Practice was published in 2002. In his last years David was working on a book exploring the future of the Social Work profession and completed an extensive outline detailing the project.

David M. Austin passed away in Berea Kentucky surrounded by family and friends on May 29, 2008. A memorial service was held at the UTSSW in October of that year. Zuria F. Austin passed away in Austin, Texas, on February 2, 2012.

More information about Zuria F. Austin is located on the School of Social Work website .

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