In Memoriam - Charles Garvin

Charles Garvin

We are very sad to report the passing of our colleague, mentor and towering figure in group work, Dr. Charles Garvin.

Charles was an esteemed academic and prolific researcher and author on many issues,  most notably social justice and group work. Charles was a Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, where he taught and mentored legions of future group workers. Charles was a founding member of IASWG, former board president and a lifetime board member.  In commemoration of his contributions, IASWG honored him with the Charles Garvin Invitational Session at its annual symposium.  Charles was the recipient of many other honors, including  the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Council on Social Work Education in 2012, and NASW Social Work Pioneer in 2020.

Charles will be greatly missed.

Please see the link to Charles’ obituary for more details about his life.

Donate to Charles Garvin Invitational Fund - Donations will be used to provide funding support for the advancement of research related to social work with groups.

Member Recollections about Charles

We welcome you to share your memories, stories, and photos of Charles by emailing [email protected] to be shared with our community.

Charles Garvin – an Ace of Hearts by Ronnie Glassman, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University

Charles Garvin was one of a kind, an Ace of Spades. I have known him for over 40 years, soon after the 1978 launch of the group work organization.  He was also an Ace of Hearts. I have loved him for his consistent generosity, kindness of heart, intelligence and for his leadership in knowing how to build coalitions and human connections. Much of that was set by his own example. He not only wrote volumes about social work with groups; Charles also practiced. His success lay in the fact that he did not have a big ego, nor was he competitive with others.  Therefore, Charles was able to unequivocally encourage scholar-practitioners and to lead in the interest of the whole community. 

During the growing pain era of the Committee for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups, when constituents were in conflict over starting a membership organization and engaged in power and control issues, primarily having to do with gender conflicts, Charles was our Ace in the Hole, ably stepping up as chair of the Committee. He capably brought many factions together in the interest of the common goal, the promotion of a healthy and diverse social group work organization.  Charles was understated and led with no drama. Along with Katy Papell, Beulah Rothman and Ruth Middleman who had started the organization, Charles helped to bring the infant AASWG to latency. Many of us credit Charles with having saved the organization with his leadership and inclusive practices.  Charles has mentored so many diverse social workers who went on to become group work scholars, academics, and practitioners.

There were group work models – and there were various opinions about them. Identified with the Michigan school, Charles was open to all social group work practice theories and embraced the richness of the knowledge base as theories informed practice and practice informed theory building. 

My co-author Len Kates and I are eternally grateful to Charles for encouraging us to expand our papers into a group work book for Sage. Charles graciously and thoroughly went through our manuscript, and brokered the book’s second edition. 

He advocated for the inclusion in doctoral programs of a mandatory group work course to ensure the preservation of the group work method and to guide graduates soon to be teaching social work practice. The required group work course in our new DSW program is a tribute to Charles. 

I must highlight Charles’ tender care for his wife Janet as she accompanied him to conferences, and many of us knew her to be an accomplished social worker. His acts of love and devotion to Janet continued throughout her life as she became ill.

…an Ace of Spades, and an Ace of Hearts, Charles, we are profoundly grateful for your legacy.


I was deeply touched by the news of the death of Charles Garvin. I first consciously met him at the 2015 International Symposium in North Carolina, and in recent years I have met him again and again in various settings of the online symposia. He always radiated that calmness of experience that is important for our international organization. His voice will be missed. But the attitude he embodied will remain as a reference point for us.

With groupworker greetings, 
Klaus-Martin Ellerbrock


On behalf of the German chapter, I would hereby like to convey our condolences regarding the death of Charles Garvin. The members of our chapter who knew Charles were all impressed by his personality, his passion for group work, but above all by the fact that he never let his status get in the way. He had a listening ear for everyone. 

On behalf of the German chapter, 
Hilda Baar, representative