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Alumna Bequeaths $685,000 for Social Welfare Student Support

Berkeley Social Welfare has received a gift of $685,000 from the estate of UC Berkeley alumna and lifelong donor Lillian Wurzel that ensures that generations of social work graudate students planning careers in healthcare settings will receive much-needed financial support for decades to come.

Wurzel, whose generosity to the School of Social Welfare spans seven decades, passed away at the age of 100 in March 2013. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1934 with a credential in social welfare, years before the campus formally offered degree programs in the subject.

In 1942, she established the Joseph and Mary Wurzel Loan Fund in honor of her parents. In a letter to then-campus president Robert Gordon Sproul, Wurzel wrote, "I am happy to forward the enclosed check for one hundred dollars to you to establish a loan fund for graduate students in the School of Social Welfare. I have thought of establishing this fund for some time and know from conversations with Dr. Cassidy and other members of the faculty of the School that it is something which is badly needed." 

Wurzel continued to donate to the fund, which grew to such a surplus that by the mid-1980s School of Social Welfare Dean Harry Specht recommended to the campus that the program be converted from a loan to a fellowship fund, which it officially became in 1991. The Wurzel Family Graduate Fellowship is one of the first to be established in the School, and it supports "Social Welfare graduate students planning careers in public welfare, public health or medical care programs."

After she completed her credential at UC Berkeley, Wurzel went on to earn her MSW at the University of Chicago. She served as a Red Cross field director during World War II and received a commendation from President Truman. She had a 65-year career as a medical social worker serving at the Contra Costa County Hospital and the Santa Clara County Social Services Department.