GSSW Deans and Directors Series: (Grace) Elenaor Kimble 1894-1977

The Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver (GSSW) invites you to meet the Deans and Directors who have shaped our school during the 80+ years we’ve been educating social work leaders. Each month from March 2014 – December 2014 we will be highlighting one of our former Directors or Deans up to our current Dean James Herbert Williams. Much of this blog and most of the future blogs in the series are based upon the research and scholarship of GSSW Professor John A. Kayser.



Meet Founding Director (Grace) Eleanor Kimble


Founding Director, Department of Applied Social Science,

University of Denver, 1931-1934

GSSW’s Founding

What is now the Graduate School of Social Work was founded at the height of America’s Great Depression in 1931 as the University of Denver’s Department of Allied Social Science. Its founding Director was (Grace) Eleanor Kimble.

Renamed the Department of Social Work in 1932, the program was established and supported by a coalition of community agencies in response to the ever-increasing human service needs of the time. Among those agencies were the Community Chest (now called Mile High United Way) and the Colorado Chapter of the American Association of Social Workers (now known as the National Association of Social Workers. The only social work training program of its kind between the Mississippi River and west coast, DU’s new department meant that social workers no longer need to travel “back East” to obtain advanced degrees.

“Arriving in September, 1931, with a blueprint in my mind of what a professional school of social work should be, I found the AASW [American Association of Social Work] had laid a sound foundation: wise Dean Duncan ready to approve the plans; Jean Sinnock [head of AASW’s training committee], with her knowledge of the community and human nature, a tower of strength; and the first eight students in a hurry to right all the wrongs of the world. Long may the School of Social Work continue to send out graduates equipped not only with knowledge, skills, and techniques, but with the philosophy of social work, caring what happens to folks.”

 (G. Eleanor Kimble, quoted in a 1951 Social Work Reporter article)

Elenaor Kimble


 About Eleanor Kimble

(Grace) Eleanor Kimble was raised in California and attended Los Angeles public schools. She received her undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkley, in 1917, majoring in economics, with minors in public health and psychology. She received a masters in economics at Berkley in 1927 and a doctorate from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1931. Her dissertation research and several subsequent published research studies focused on transients and homeless people, especially women who were forced into homelessness because of pregnancy and/or subsequent desertion by their husbands. Her publication, “Social Work with Travelers and Tranlents: A Study of Travelers Aid Work in the United States,” was published in 1935 and is currently available through the University of Denver’s Anderson Academic commons.

Fresh from completing her doctoral work at Chicago, Kimble came to Denver to get the Department of Applied Social Science up and running. She taught courses in casework, social policy and research, and she supervised students’ individual master’s theses.

Prior to coming to Denver, Kimble had an extensive career as a social work practitioner, supervisor and educator. She worked in public welfare and juvenile correctional settings in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, and also for Travelers Aid Societies in New York and Los Angeles. She taught family casework at the University of Oregon, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Tulane University and the Los Angeles Chapter of the AASW.

Under Kimble’s leadership, DU’s Department of Social Work was fully accredited by the American Association of Schools of Social Work in 1933, just two years after it began. Kimble left Denver the following year, presumably to resume her practice career and continue her research on transients and homeless. In 1941, she joined the social work faculty at University of Washington and, by 1951, was serving as director of the California Mental Hygiene Society.

A 1966 NASW membership directory lists Kimble as retired and living in Berkley, CA. She passed away in Monterey, CA, in 1977 at the age of 82.

Additional Historical Notes

During 2014, the University of Denver is celebrating its 150th anniversary, or Sesquicentennial. For additional historical information about the state of Colorado, the city of Denver and the University of Denver during the time of GSSW’s founding, please visit DU’s Sesquicentennial website.


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