One of the most distinguished faculty members at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, Professor Emeritus Ernest Greenwood, died on May 4, 2004. Greenwood taught research theory and methods at the School of Social Welfare from 1953 until his retirement in 1970. He helped shape the School’s reputation as the premier research program in social work in the country both through his scholarly work and through his committee service and professional associations.
Greenwood was born in Transylvania (now part of Romania) in 1910. His mother died during World War I. Due to anti-Semitism and economic hardship, Greenwood and his family (father, stepmother and two stepsisters) emigrated to the US in 1921. Upon the death of his stepmother, he and his siblings were placed in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum until his father remarried and reunited the family two years later. He gained social work practice experience as a probation officer for juvenile delinquents and runaways in Ohio, and worked at the same orphanage where he lived as a child.
Educated at the University of Ohio (A.B., summa cum laude, sociology, 1933), the University of Cincinnati (M.A., sociology, 1936), Columbia University (Ph.D., sociology, 1943), and the University of Chicago (M.A., social service administration, 1947), he began his professional career teaching sociology. After serving as a researcher with welfare planning councils in Louisville, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and teaching at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, he joined Berkeley’s faculty in 1953, where he taught research theory and methods and supervised the new master of social welfare (M.S.W.) research sequence. The program required students to complete a research project, which at the time, was unique. Under Greenwood’s supervision Berkeley’s program became a national model for other schools of social work.
Greenwood’s scholarship brought great distinction to the school. His dissertation, “Experimental Sociology: A Study in Method” (1945), later published as a book, became a seminal text in the emerging fields of sociology and social welfare. It was translated into several languages and is still assigned in courses today. He was a proponent of applying a social scientific approach to the study of social problems and human behavior. He pioneered using statistical methods and empirical testing of hypotheses in social welfare research, preferring them to the case study approach that had dominated the field. His 1957 article, “Attributes of A l.c. Profession,” helped secure social work’s reputation as a legitimate field. His body of work was influential and contributed greatly to the professionalization of the field. These include Social Work Research: A Decade of Reappraisal (1957) and Social Science and Social Work: A Theory of Their Relationship (1955). He also published Metodología de la Investigación Social (1973), one of the first comprehensive social welfare texts in Spanish.
Greenwood’s service to the University was exceptional. He led the successful effort to establish the school’s doctoral program, cochairing (with Professor Henry Maas) the committee that drafted the proposed program. After its approval by the UC Regents, he chaired the program from 1964 to 1967 and initially taught the doctoral-level research course. He also cochaired (with Dean Milton Chernin) the committee overseeing the renovation of Haviland Hall for the School. He supervised a Lilly Foundation-financed program to train researchers for welfare planning agencies. With Chernin, he organized the social science section of the UC Berkeley-University of Chile convenio and in 1967-68 was visiting professor at Chile’s Institute of Social Service, supervising research and teaching a course on the methodology of social research for research instructors in greater Santiago. After his retirement, he endowed the Greenwood-Emeritus Faculty Prize for Competence in Writing, an annual award to a graduating MSW student.