'Social Work Pioneer'
National association honors
Walter J. Levy
by Don Weitz
Special to DJW
How would you like to meet Dallas' most honored social worker? Walter J. Levy, now retired, has been designated a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers. This rare honor was given for Mr. Levy's accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the social work profession, with special recognition in the field of aging.
He was 16 when his family immigrated from Koenigsberg, East Prussia, Germany, to the US. In 1943, he graduated from Hendrix College with a B.A. in Philosophic Studies. His Masters of Arts in Education is from the University of Chicago, and his Masters of Social Work is from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Mr. Levy has dedicated his life to human service. He devoted ten years to vocational services, working in Jewish communities with soldiers returning from World War II and with Holocaust survivors. The next 20 years were spent in community development, including administrative and consultative positions with the Council of Jewish Federations and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. His association with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas spanned 13 years, and included positions as assistant director, associate director, executive director and consultant. He also served 18 years as consultant for the Feldman Foundation.
In 1975, Mr. Levy embraced the biggest professional challenge of his life: to build a private practice in a then new area of concentration - the field of aging. This involved time, effort, patience and more education. He immersed himself in learning about the aging population, and made himself available to clients and community groups. He then became a board certified diplomate in Clinical Social Work.
Mr. Levy established a practice that focused on psychosocial aspects of aging, illness and widowhood. He started his private practice in 1977 and retired the day the millennium ended, December 31, 1999. A trailblazer in his field, he treated the elderly and their families well before this became a recognized specialty. He now serves as a role model for future generations of social workers who will treat the growing numbers of aging baby boomers in this new century. Mr. Levy has been frequently published in professional journals, and has been an instructor and guest lecturer at area colleges and universities.
Today, to say Mr. Levy is retired is hardly reality. He has continued to work with community agencies and organizations as a volunteer. To mention a few, he is a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, and has served on its board of directors, publicity and social action committees. He helped establish the Dallas chapter of the American Jewish Congress and served as its consultant and as a board member. Mr. Levy helped with the establishment of the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center, and with the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless, the Vogel Alcove.
He currently serves as chair of the Jack and Lois Kravitz Fund for Leadership Development and co-chair of the Calick Memorial Fund for the Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. Mr. Levy is a member of the Holocaust Survivors Special Needs Committee for Jewish Family Service.
To further illustrate Mr. Levy's diverse interests, he is a life member and current president of the Dallas chapter of the Society of Israel Philatelists, and on Monday afternoons visits heart surgery patients at Medical City on behalf of Mended Hearts. He is program chair of the Anthropology Group, and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Galerstein Women's Center at the University of Texas at Dallas.
The designation as Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers is an exceptional honor, and Mr. Levy is the only Dallas social worker so recognized. However, this is not the first time Mr. Levy has been honored by his colleagues. In 1986, he received local recognition as "Social Worker of the Year" from the Dallas Unit of the NASW. In 1995, he received the prestigious "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Dallas Unit and again at the state level from the Texas Chapter of the association.
He is married to Hilma, a former social worker. They were blessed with four daughters, one of whom passed away, and have seven grandchildren.
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, November 15, 2001