Brown School honors ‘Everyday Heroes’

One faculty member, three alumni honored at annual celebration

The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis awarded three Distinguished Alumni Awards and one Distinguished Faculty Award during its annual alumni awards celebration May 2 at Steinberg Hall Auditorium.

This year’s theme celebrated the “Everyday Heroes” who create positive change in their communities.

A reception followed at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Mikki Brewster (MSW ’71). Brewster’s career, no matter the field, has been rooted in the practice of ensuring the health and well-being of individuals.

After 12 years of nursing, she continued her education, ultimately graduating from the Brown School with a concentration in health.

Brewster took a position as commissioner of community services for the City of St. Louis and then served as director of United Special Services through the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Stints at St. Louis Job Corps, St. Louis Area Agency on Aging and St. Louis Public Schools were followed by an entirely new phase of her career.

When the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) was created in 2000, Brewster was named one of the founding board members by then-Attorney General Jay Nixon. By 2002, she was serving as chairperson of the board.

In her seven years with MFH, Brewster participated with the board in the distribution of millions of dollars to improve the quality of life for Missourians in 84 counties and the City of St. Louis.

At the Brown School, Brewster has served as chair of the Community Advisory Committee for the Master of Public Health Program. Her work with students, faculty, staff and the greater St. Louis community has been integral to the success of the program, which now is in its third year.

Melissa Clyde (MSW ’07). A member of the Navajo Nation, Clyde was raised by principles of the Navajo Way of Life to be of service to family and community.

She was accepted to the Brown School in 2005, where she was awarded the Kathryn M. Buder Scholarship. Clyde pursued a concentration in mental health with a specialization in family therapy and spent her final semester as a student intern with the Government Affairs and Policy Department of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) in Portland, Ore.

Prior to graduation in 2007, she was offered a full-time position as a community development specialist with NICWA.

Clyde advanced quickly to the position of senior program director. She oversees NICWA’s efforts in community development, research, government affairs and policy that supports the 565 federally recognized American Indian tribes and their child-serving systems through culturally appropriate technical assistance and training.

During the summer of 2011, Clyde represented the Indigenous Peoples of North America as one of eight participants in the world at the United Nations Indigenous Fellowship Programme in Geneva.

Shannon Rudisill (MSW ’96). Rudisill is the director of the Office of Child Care in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the goal of improving individual child development and family well-being, she manages annual spending of $5 billion to affect the quality care of 1.7 million American children.

Rudisill has pushed a reform agenda for reauthorization and overhaul of state, territory and tribal child-care planning processes.

Her work has resulted in a child-care program concentrated on improving health and safety for child-care programs, strong opportunities for professional development, quality rating and improvement systems that set standards of excellence for child-care providers, and a subsidy program that balances the importance of program integrity with child-care access for vulnerable families.

Rudisill attended the Brown School through the Bettie Schroth Johnson Scholarship in Social Service Management. She completed her practica with Project Respond and South Side Day Nursery (now the South Side Early Childhood Center).

Distinguished Faculty Award

David F. Gillespie, PhD, professor of social work, has witnessed tremendous change and growth since joining the Brown School faculty in 1978. More than 5,000 Brown School students have earned degrees during his career, and he has benefited the academic careers of many through his teaching, research and mentorship.

Shortly after arriving in St. Louis, Gillespie focused his research on effectiveness of service organizations, studying goal attainment scaling and developing a measure of individual problem rating. He received tenure three years after his arrival at the Brown School.

Confirmation of the New Madrid earthquake fault provided opportunities for Gillespie’s research on disaster preparedness, studying networks of organizations to assess delivery of social services in the aftermath of a multistate wide disaster.

His research has helped secure a place for disaster knowledge and practice within the social work profession.

Gillespie has been active in the Brown School’s doctoral program throughout his career. He has been an academic and professional mentor to many students who now are teaching and advising their own students.

Catch a glimpse of current “heroes in training” through a series of videos from the Brown School at