Social work to present 2008 Distinguished Alumni Awards on April 30

The George Warren Brown School of Social Work will honor five distinguished individuals for outstanding school service during its annual Alumni Awards Dinner, April 30 at the Coronado Ballroom.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Ruth R. Ehresman, Ronda S. Connaway, D.S.W., and Michael E. Willis. Curtis McMillen, Ph.D., professor of social work and associate director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research (CMHSR), will receive the Distinguished Faculty Award. The Dean’s Medal recipient is B. A. Bridgewater, Jr., retired chairman and chief executive officer at Brown Shoe Company.

Ehresman’s (1983) passion for social justice has been the unifying thread throughout her career. For the past 13 years her work has focused on policy analysis, education, and advocacy. Ehresman was the policy director of Citizens for Missouri’s Children for 11 years and has been the director of health and budgetary policy at the Missouri Budget Project since 2005. Ehresman has been a neighborhood activist, providing leadership to preserve and develop the Southside National Bank building, and working to promote the development of three derelict commercial sites. She has served on numerous boards and statewide task forces. In 2006, the St. Louis Business Journal named her a Health Care Hero in Public Policy.

Connaway (1959, 1964) has devoted her career to advancing social work education and to community service. She the joined the Brown School faculty in 1964, leaving ten years later to become a professor and dean of the College of Social Professions at the University of Kentucky. In 1979 she was named associate dean for academic programs at the University of Kentucky Graduate School. From 1983 to 1994 she was a professor in the College of Social Work and earned the Chancellor’s Faculty Incentive Award in 1990. Connaway is the co-author of the textbook Social Work Practice as well as 18 papers published in journals, as book chapters and/or proceedings. She has also authored 11 book reviews. She currently lives in Gunnison, Colo. where she is involved in a number of service and volunteer activities. In 2007, the Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year.

Willis (1973, 1976) is founder and president of Michael Willis Architects. His architecture, urban design and interiors firm has built a national reputation for creating thoughtful and comprehensive design solutions for numerous municipal clients throughout California and beyond. His goal is to create buildings that are good neighbors in any community while providing a safe, efficient, and humane environment for its occupants. Willis, an active and influential member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), was a founder of the National AIA Board Knowledge Committee and was elevated to Fellowship in 1996. Willis was a member of the AIA task force for the post-Katrina Louisiana Governor’s Rebuilding and Recovery Conference in New Orleans. He is a Distinguished Alumni of the Washington University School of Architecture, and a holder of a National Black Achievement award of the Black Alumni Council.

Since McMillen joined the Brown School faculty in 1994, he has played a leadership role in many of the school’s teaching, research, and service initiatives. McMillen maintains an active research agenda in child welfare and mental health services funded through the National Institute of Mental Health. Active in the local community, he works closely with three social service agencies. He helped forge the Brown School’s partnership around evidence-based practices with the Family Resource Center. He is implementing a treatment foster care program with the Missouri Alliance for Children and Families. He also continues his long-term collaboration with the Missouri Children’s Division on multiple quality improvement efforts. In 2001, McMillen was named CMHSR associate director. The only Center of its kind in a school of social work, CMSHR focuses on using evidence-based practices to close the gap between care that “should be” deliver and care that “is.”

Bridgewater retired as chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Brown Shoe Company in 1999. His career with the St. Louis-based shoe manufacturer, founded by Brown School’s namesake George Warren Brown, spanned more than 20 years. Bridgewater joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 1983. He has chaired the University’s Educational Policy Committee, Audit Committee, and Honorary Degree Committee, and served on the Executive Committee and Chancellor Search Committee. In 2004, Mr. Bridgewater joined the Brown School’s National Council as Chairman. His background in corporate governance and strategic planning has been an asset to the University and the School of Social Work. During his forty-year career he has been a director (senior partner) at McKinsey and Company and associate director, National Security and International Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. He has been director of 12 New York Stock Exchange companies and served for six years as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Harvard Business School.