Harry Specht Memorial Fellowship

The Harry Specht Memorial Graduate Fellowship was establihsed in 2013 with a gift from Alan and Kimberly Sherman, in honor of Social Welfare professor and dean emeritus Harry Specht.

Harry Specht was a social welfare scholar, educator and administrator, whose tenure as dean of the School of Social Welfare brought it recognition as one of the foremost graduate schools of social work in the world. His values and mission as a social worker were in large part shaped by a difficult childhood spent in a chaotic, impoverished household during the depths of the Great Depression. During his early professional years in New York City, Specht worked with street gangs and in the famous settlement houses of the City: Bronx House, Lenox Hill, and the Mt. Vernon YM-YWHA.

After obtaining a PhD from Brandeis University in 1964, Specht and his family moved to California where he became Associate Executive Director of the Contra Costa Council of Community Services. A one-year stint as lecturer at the San Francisco State Department of Social Work was followed by his appointment in 1967 as a lecturer at the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley. Specht was appointed dean of the School in 1977 and served admirably in that role until his death in 1995.

As a scholar, Specht was a leading authority on community organization and social planning. Out of more than a dozen books and over 50 papers, his favorite work was his final one, Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work Has Abandoned Its Mission, co-authored with Dr. Mark Courtney and published in 1994. The book provided a compelling case for social work as a profession of community change and social justice, with a particular focus on aid and service to the poor.

Alan and Kimberly Sherman are professional social workers themselves and great admirers of Specht and the values he brought to the field of social welfare during the 1970s and well beyond. As a graduate of the Berkeley Social Welfare MSW program in 1990, Mr. Sherman is tremendously appreciative of the knowledge and experience, connections and opportunities that he gained during his time at Haviland Hall. The establishment of this fellowship is an effort to partly repay his profound debt to the School of Social Welfare by providing support and opportunities for other MSW students who are passionate about social justice and the community or systems change required to achieve it.

The Harry Specht Memorial Graduate Fellowship supports second-year MSW students who demonstrate a high level of academic distinction and have chosen to specialize in either Strengthening Organizations and Communities; or Strengthening Children, Youth and Families. Preference will be given to students who have demonstrated a commitment to the alleviation of poverty and/or its effects, through their participation in community organization and development, community-based direct practice, research, and/or advocacy activities. Evidence of financial need may also be a consideration.