Social work to present 2008 Distinguished Alumni Awards

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

Three alumni will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards; one faculty member will receive the Distinguished Faculty Award; and one member of the community will receive the Dean’s Medal. The honorees:

Distinguished Alumni Award

Ruth R. Ehresman (MSW ’83) has a passion for social justice that 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 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.

Ronda S. Connaway (MSW ’59, DSW ’64) has devoted her career to advancing social work education and to community service. She joined the Brown School faculty in 1964, leaving 10 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 1983-1994, 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 lives in Gunnison, Colo., and, in 2007, was named Gunnison Country Chamber of Citizen of the Year.

Michael E. Willis (BA ’73, MSW ’76, MArch ’76 ) is founder and president of Michael Willis Architects. His architecture, urban design and interiors firm has built a national reputation for creating thoughtful design solutions for municipal clients throughout California and beyond. His goal is to create buildings that are good neighbors while providing a safe, efficient 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. 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 WUSTL School of Architecture and a holder of a National Black Achievement award of the Black Alumni Council.

Distinguished Faculty Award

Curtis McMillen, Ph.D., is professor of social work and associate director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research (CMHSR). Since McMillen joined the Brown School faculty in 1994, he has played a leadership role in many 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, CMHSR focuses on using evidence-based practices to close the gap between care that “should be” delivered and care that “is.”

The Dean’s Medal

B. A. Bridgewater Jr., retired chairman and chief executive officer at Brown Shoe Co. 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 the Executive Committee and Chancellor Search Committee. In 2004, Bridgewater joined the Brown School’s National Council as chairman. During his 40-year career, he has been a director (senior partner) at McKinsey and Co. and associate director of the 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.