Longtime state Rep. Jim Wayne, a licensed clinical social worker who represents Louisville and the 35th District in the Kentucky General Assembly, received an honorary doctorate of public service on Friday, March 2 from the Spalding School of Work.
President Tori Murden McClure conferred the honorary degree on Wayne during a Celebration of Social Work at the Republic Bank Academic Center. About 100 students, faculty and members of the public were there to celebrate Social Work Month in March and honor Wayne and three other social workers who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and their community.
The other honorees (see photos below) were Jackie Stamps (Advocate Award) of the state’s Department of Child Based Services, Judy Freundlich Tiell (Leader Award) of Jewish Family Career Services and Rashaad Abdur-Rahman (Champion Award) of the Louisville Metro Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Before the event, Wayne discussed the honor from Spalding and gave his thoughts on the importance of social workers.
How did you find out you were receiving this honorary degree from Spalding?
Jim Wayne: Several weeks ago, (School of Social Work Acting Faculty Chair) Shannon Cambron called me and said they wanted to honor me in some way, but she wouldn’t tell me in what way. It kind of made me a little uncomfortable. (Chuckling.) She said, would you mind meeting President McClure for coffee or lunch. So we did meet for an early coffee at this little place across the street D. Nally’s. Tori was there, and so was Shannon and (social work faculty member) Stacy Deck. Tori announced that the board of trustees had decided to honor me with a doctorate degree. I was quite stunned because I wondered (laughing), “What qualifies someone to receive such a degree?” I think they were trying to show that it’s important for social workers to be recognized in shaping social policy and that would be an inspiration to some of the other people in training to be social workers. I said, “If that helps somebody else to be inspired to do good work, then I’m happy to accept it.”
What is your background in social work?
Jim Wayne: I have a master’s in social work from Smith College in Massachusetts. I went from there to work at a mental health center in Southern Indiana in a rural area, which was a wonderful experience. Then I was at Bingham Child Guidance Clinic here for several years and taught the pediatric residents and did therapy there and evaluations. Then I started our work in the community with private practice doing employee assistance programs and always doing work with people who cannot afford therapy, so I’ve always done pro bono work. I always maintain a psychotherapy practice for long-term cases because employee-assistance programs are brief. They’re assessment and brief therapy. But I also love to work in long-term cases. And then I’m always in the community. I do a number of pro bono cases and try to work in the community, especially the West End. At one point I was a pro bono counselor at a school there, and some of those children are now young adults and I maintain contact with them.
How do you describe the importance of social workers and all that they do?
Jim Wayne: Right now we live in very difficult times – I say dark times – and there are many forces right now that are destructive, that are harmful, that are divisive. The role of social work is just the opposite of all that. The role of social work is to bring people together, to build communities, to help heal the emotional traumas that people suffer, to heal the traumas in a family as well as individually and to also connect those individual and family traumas with the larger society in a social context because there are many systems that are harmful and, I’d say, have pathological components. So social workers not only work individually or in small groups or couples, but they also work in systems in trying to change social policy so that the social environment we all live in is conducive to human growth. And that’s very challenging, but it’s so very necessary and social workers have the skills to do that.
Tell me what you think about Spalding’s role in where it’s positioned downtown since 1920 or the composition of its student body or any of the priorities you’ve heard about from President McClure or about the social work program. Just anything that you think about Spalding and its role in the community.
Jim Wayne: Well, I’m a Spalding grad – an MFA in writing grad. … My understanding is this is an urban university, and it’s strategically situated in a very vibrant part of our city. This is also an area where there are some people suffering from homelessness and hunger and addiction and mental illness. What (McClure) has done is basically put her flag in the ground here and said, “We are here, and we are going to grow here, in the middle of this diverse environment of the urban core.” And I think it’s wonderful because she’s bringing into this area people who maybe wouldn’t be exposed to this type of urban environment. So I’m a great admirer of her and her vision and what the School of Social Work is doing right here.
Last thing, so will you now start referring to yourself as “Dr. Wayne?”
Jim Wayne: (Laughing.) Tori said that I could do that, but I think I’ll just be Jim.