Professor Emeritus Status for UKZN Alumnus and Former Social Work Academic
Distinguished Social Work Professor, former UKZN academic and alumnus, Mel Gray was recently awarded the Professor Emeritus status when she retired from the University of Newcastle in Australia.
A powerful advocate for Social Work, Gray spent 19 years of her 38-year academic career at UKZN. She was an academic from 1980 and became the Professor and Head of Social Work under the Faculty of Community and Development Disciplines (CADDS) from 1994, where she started a community development programme. She left UKZN in 1999 to take up a new position at Australia’s University of Newcastle.
Her educational experience, all obtained from UKZN, include a Bachelor of Social Science (Social Work) degree completed between 1969 and 1971; an Honours and Masters in Social Work in 1973 and 1987 respectively; and later obtaining her PhD degree in 1994.
‘It was this early history that shaped me and gave me the values I carried with me through my academic career’ said Gray.
According to the University of Newcastle, Gray was honoured ‘in recognition of her impressive record of service, research leadership and strong contribution to the performance and international reputation of the University of Newcastle.’
UKZN’s Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Catharine Coleborne said: ‘Gray has exemplified the core values of the University for research excellence, wide engagement and collaboration, and the University Council has conferred the title of Professor Emeritus as a most fitting recognition of Professor Gray’s outstanding academic achievements and record of service. One example of where this embodiment of core values can be clearly seen is in her outstanding record of HDR completions including a strong cohort of international scholars.’
Gray ensured that she maintained her links over the years with South Africa and the continent. Her last book, Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa (Routledge, 2017) comprises of case studies from countries like South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, and more.
According to Gray, the book ‘focuses solely on the unique African context engaging with issues relating to social work and development more broadly thus enabling a deeper examination and more complex and nuanced picture to emerge.’
Gray was recently awarded the prestigious International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) Eileen Younghusband Lecture Award 2018 for her powerful contribution to international social work education. She will continue to maintain links with and represent the University of Newcastle in Australia and abroad.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu