GSSW Deans and Directors Series: Leverne McCummings, 5th GSSW Dean, 1978-1985

LEVERNE MCCUMMINGS (1932-)

McCummings picture

5TH GSSW Dean, 1978-1985

The first person of color to serve as director or dean of GSSW.

The first African American to serve as a graduate dean at the University of Denver.

LeVerne McCummings was born and raised in South Carolina, attending segregated elementary and secondary schools in Marion County. Although his family moved to Philadelphia when he was 19, McCummings returned to the South, attending St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina from 1952 to 1960. (His undergraduate work was interrupted by two years of military service in the U.S. Army.) He graduated from St. Augustine’s (a four year liberal arts college for African Americans, operated by the Episcopal Church), majoring in social studies, with minors in psychology and urban mental health. As a college student, he was active in two national civil rights organizations. After graduation, he married Betty Hall, who later earned a doctorate in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

He began his practice career in the Philadelphia area, starting in 1960. Over the next 15 years, McCummings worked in various positions as a public school teacher; a public welfare caseworker; development director for the Lutheran Social Mission Society; community development director for the Wharton Settlement House; and held several administrative or executive positions in the Model Cities Program in Philadelphia. He also held administrative positions in public and private agencies in Columbus, Ohio, while completing his doctorate.

McCummings completed his MSW in 1966 at University of Pennsylvania. In 1973, he joined the social work faculty at University of Kentucky. He earned a doctorate in social work from Ohio State University in 1975, while also serving on that faculty as an assistant professor. His areas of expertise were group work, administration, health, and aging. He spent two contentious years as a faculty member at Syracuse University School of Social Work, battling what he perceived to be entrenched institutional racism.

He came to DU in 1977 as Associate Professor. Became GSSW Dean in 1978, at age 45. Later, was elected president of the Council of Deans and Directors (1982-1985). His tenure as GSSW Dean occurred during a period of prolonged severe financial crisis at the University. Much conflict occurred with the faculty over program direction, hiring, budget and spending priorities, and the threat of GSSW’s potential consolidation with the School of Professional Psychology and College of Education–which would have resulted in the loss of GSSW’s status as an independent academic unit. McCummings left GSSW in 1985 to become the President of Cheyney University in Philadelphia, one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges in the United States, which was threatened with loss of accreditation because of its own prolonged financial crises and administrative turnover. McCummings served as president of Cheyney until 1991.

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