In Memoriam - George Getzel

It is with much sadness that IASWG shares with you that our beloved IASWG colleague, George Getzel, passed away recently after a long illness. When George was named “IASWG Honoree” at our 2002 IASWG Symposium, Alex Gitterman remarked in the IASWG Symposium program that George was “a social worker with vision and courage”; Alex shared these additional remarks in the program: “A gifted teacher and prolific scholar, George made a profound contribution to his students’ professional development and to the professions’ literature. To his students, he modeled a commitment to advocacy and social justice and to creative group work practice. To the profession, he modeled writing with soul about really important social and practice issues.”

George was a long-time faculty member at the Hunter College School of Social Work, and his teaching and scholarship impacted many of us in IASWG during his years of teaching in NYC, including his many years at Hunter teaching alongside Roselle Kurland and Bob Salmon. Hunter released a formal message upon George’s passing: “He began his academic career in 1970, became a professor emeritus in 2002, and retired from teaching in 2009. George was a passionate advocate of the group work method of social work. He was an inspiration to those of us privileged to have known him as a colleague and friend. His dedication to his students and his family was only surpassed by their devotion to him. The work of his social work students and the love of his family and friends will be his lasting legacy…you may offer condolences by writing to: The Getzel Family, 3967 Sedgwick Avenue, Apartment 17B, Bronx, New York, 10463.”
Many of us visited or communicated with George during his recent time in hospice at Calvary Hospital; his final months of life were spent gracefully and peacefully with family and friends. IASWG member, Ginny Abrams, a very good friend of George for many years, shared that her visits to Calgary to be with him were “a lesson in how to face this time in life with equanimity and grace…(and) at a time when group work is not getting the attention it deserves in academia, I fervently hope his work and vision for a better, more humane society, that he spoke of almost to the end, will be noted.” Ginny also encouraged all of us to read a writing selection by George that she sent to some friends after George died; published in the Summer of 2010 in the journal, Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, it is entitled: “My final lecture explained.” (The journal’s abstract explains: In this narrative, we are presented with some of the most prescient ideas on the mission of the profession of social work, as well as the responsibilities of the social work practitioner and educator.)”
Although George shared that he didn’t want any special formal event marking his death, many of us in IASWG think he would have been comforted by an informal gathering. The 2018 symposium is not in NYC this year, so there will not be a symposium opportunity in NYC for IASWG friends of George to meet. George was an active participant in recent years at IASWG NYC Red Apple Chapter events, and several NYC area IASWG members are initiating plans to gather for an afternoon or evening informal group event to discuss his scholarly group work contributions and to share stories about him. More information will be shared in upcoming months about this event envisioned for this summer or early fall.