Class of MSW‘71

The MSW Class of 1971 will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of this historic graduating group in Montreal in October 2011. This class marked the end of an era as we were the last to graduate from McGill with a two-year MSW. During our time at Wilson Hall a one-year masters program was developed, then implemented the academic year following our graduation. An undergraduate (BSW) program was also reintroduced, with four second-year masters students acting as conference leaders for the undergraduate students enrolled in the new BSW program.

Following graduation, students have stayed in touch over the years to varying degrees. Some retained close friendships built up over the two years at McGill; others largely went their own way for one reason or another.

The coming reunion, October 28 to October 30, 2011, is therefore a tremendous opportunity for graduates to renew contact and share what they have been up to in the last forty years.


We want to hear about what you've been doing

Even though not everyone in our year will be attending the reunion, everyone is invited to submit some information (although there is no obligation to do so) as we feel this will make the coming reunion even more meaningful.

To get you started, here are a number of questions for you to expand on:

1. Where have you been in the past 40 years and where are you now?

2. What has been your biggest single accomplishment? What are you most proud of?

3. What has your social work career mainly consisted of? What were your most rewarding 2 or 3 jobs?

4. Tell us about your family: spouses/partners/children/grandchildren.

5. Are you retired, and if so, partially or fully? What are you doing nowadays?

6. What are your hobbies and interests?

7. What other information, such as awards you have received, would you like to share?

You are free to respond to any or all seven questions as you see fit. Overall the maximum desired length of your 'biog' is 2 pages. We also welcome any photographs you would like to accompany your 'biog', whether of your time at McGill in the MSW program or of significant events subsequently.

Gary Davies will be collating this material and arranging to post it on the alumni website at McGill. You can email your 'biog' to him at gldavies [at] execulink [dot] com as a Word document, sending it as an attachment, or cut and paste it into an email. Any photos you wish to include can be sent by JPEG format with your email. Please be sure to 'save' your submission.

If you do not have Internet access you can send Gary your 'biog' by post addressed to Gary Davies, 25 Renwick Avenue, London, Ontario, N6A 3V1, Canada. This should be in the form of a clean typewritten copy suitable for scanning. We will do our best to return any accompanying photos, so be sure to send your return address.


Our year comprised close to 60 students, mostly full-time, the majority of whom were from across Canada, but with a liberal sprinkling of students from around the world. Some of us entered the master’s program straight from undergraduate studies, while others had already worked in the field of social work or allied fields. This created a diverse body of students which led to a healthy cross-fertilization of ideas, experience, and expectations. Some had been seconded by their employers to undertake this course and would be returning to employment on completion of their studies, while others only developed a clearer understanding of what they hoped to achieve while at McGill or following graduation.

While a number of students had previously studied at McGill and were familiar with both campus life and what Montreal had to offer, for many this was a new departure on both fronts, and for some a great contrast to what they had previously experienced. For some students it was a lonely sojourn far away from home and family for the duration of the two-year course. The majority of students were single, but others were married and/or had families to look after in addition to the arduous demands of the course. Some got engaged or married during this period. The extent to which individual students participated in campus activities varied enormously therefore, but there was nevertheless a great sense of camaraderie, often fostered by close proximity on fieldwork placements as well as being fellow students on certain courses.

The memorable profs

Some of the professors who stand out from this era are Larry Shulman, who taught group work, Sheila Goldbloom, who taught community organization, and Allan Sirkus, who taught psychodrama. Each made a lasting impact one way or another. It would seem we were a bolshie lot. For example, when Mrs. Stevenson proposed setting an exam in casework in our first year we unanimously voted her down! We don't remember a single exam being set in the whole two years of the program, assessment having being made on the basis of class participation and presentations, term papers and fieldwork performance. Larry Shulman introduced the alternative of being graded on a pass/fail basis but this did not find favour with everyone; some felt this would be detrimental to their chances of further study.

Penelope Winship recalls this humourous incident: Those of us who took Professor Dorothy Freeman's class on marriage therapy were invited to her home for dinner at the end of the course. When we got there we were given a tour of the Freemans' sumptuous apartment. Barbara Findlay, on seeing the size of the marital bed, couldn't help but exclaim, “Wow, get the size of the bed!!!”

Miss Griffiths was another memorable faculty member. As Admissions Officer she took no prisoners, and proved a formidable faculty advisor to those who had the benefit of her input when doing research and writing their theses. She was not known to mince words and was a fierce critic. Penelope Winship agreed to write an article for the PGSS newspaper during the academic year of 1969-70. Upon its publication, Miss Griffiths hauled poor Penelope into her office and went through the article with a fine tooth comb, having underlined much of it in thick red felt tip for emphasis, to register her disapproval and point out errors of fact. She concluded by saying, “You should have consulted me first!” The article hung on Penelope's bedroom wall for the remainder of her time at McGill and was the first thing she saw when opening her eyes every morning, as an object lesson. 

Miss Griffiths did, however, have a more tender side to her disposition.  When interviewing applicants for admission her poodle, Eloise, sat in on the interviews, and was known to have a say in the final admission verdict. And when Thelma Silver and Penelope Winship had completed their joint thesis to her satisfaction, and it was on the point of being submitted, Miss Griffiths invited them for supper. Over sherry prior to serving the meal she informed them that they could now call her Margaret. However, neither of them had the nerve to do so!  Her particular interest was child welfare and, on her death, she left a bequest to assist those who intended to specialize in this field in their studies at Wilson Hall.

Gary Davies also clearly recalls his admissions interview and a subsequent encounter with a student already in the course who explained Eloise’s role. He received a $20 parking ticket as he parked in a nearby no parking zone to avoid being late for his interview.

The Times They Were a Changin’

Our class experienced the October 1970 FLQ crisis. For a time, Sheila Goldbloom and her husband, Victor, then a cabinet minister in the provincial government, were away from Montreal at a location known only to Dr. David Woodsworth, the School’s director. Early in 1971, Sheila returned to campus and a bodyguard was present in her classes for several weeks.

The School of Social Work fielded two postgraduate students, Rudy Lewis and Penelope Winship, to represent Social Work at the PGSS (Post-Graduate Students Society) Council in the 1969-70 academic year. These two went on to become Internal Vice-President and External Vice-President of the PGSS respectively in their final year. Their participation in the first year could perhaps be characterized generally by a tendency, in true social work fashion, to heckle the executive committee of the day.  Being asked to run for office the following year was both unexpected and salutary. Perhaps their most noteworthy achievement in office was to instigate a one-day seminar with representatives of French-speaking universities from across Canada, which was attended by many such delegates and was hugely successful.

Towards the end of the first year of the master’s program a 'scout' came from the North West Territories to interview four students who had applied for its one-year scholarship to cover the expenses of their final year of study. None of those interviewed were accepted. This was perhaps just as well. A successful applicant would have been committed not only to working for the North West Territories for the two years immediately following graduation, but also to learning how to fly a plane which landed on skis, in order to visit far-flung clientele.


The fortieth anniversary reunion of the MSW Class of '71' will be held in Montreal from October 28 to October 30, 2011.

Two earlier reunions are known to have taken place, the first, organized by Cerise Morris, some twenty years ago, in Montreal, and the second, about a decade ago in Toronto. It is hoped that the reunion in October 2011 will attract an even bigger turnout and prove even more memorable. Plans to hold any further reunions can be discussed when we get together in October.

The program is as follows:

Friday, October 28: Coffee/tea and cakes/pastries at the home of Sheila Goldbloom, 3-5 pm.

Friday, October 28: Drinks, followed by dinner at the PGSS (Thomson House) starting at 6 pm.

Saturday, October 29: A campus tour including a visit to Wilson Hall is planned with visits to McCord Museum and a walk around Old Montreal to follow, during the day. An optional activity for the afternoon will be a visit to the Botanical Gardens.  There will be a lunch at Wilson Hall.

Saturday, October 29: Dinner at Galianos in Old Montreal, starting with drinks at 6 pm, will be the highlight of the reunion.

Sunday, October 30: Brunch at the Delta Hotel will provide the finale of the reunion.

Discounted rates for those wishing to stay at the Delta Hotel for the duration of the reunion have been arranged.


Some alumni have suggested that we mark the fortieth anniversary with a fundraising project. One suggestion is to raise money to benefit the facilities provided by Wilson Hall in some tangible way. Another is to help revitalize the Social Work Alumni Association, perhaps by helping to fund the renewal of its annual newsletter to alumni, which has not appeared for some years. A third is to publish in some form an account of the achievements and contributions of the Class of '71.

Further suggestions are welcome in advance of the reunion. We can then try to reach a consensus on whether we mark this occasion with a fundraising project and if so in what way.


Thelma Silver and Penelope Elias got the ball rolling initially by contacting everyone for whom contact details were available to suggest the reunion. The program for the reunion was developed as a result of various suggestions made by alumni. Gary Davies will be setting up the website to feature details of the reunion and input from alumni as to their memories of McGill and subsequent career and life events. Their contact details are:

Thelma Silver Doovil [at] aol [dot] com or tel 1 216 464 0330
Penelope Elias aliasziggy [at] hotmail [dot] com or tel 0044 (0)1900 66037
Gary Davies gldavies [at] execulink [dot] com or tel 1-519-438-5811

Thanks to all who sent in their bios! We’ve had some great submissions.

To read a classmate’s bio, just click on his or her name below.

To see details on how to get your own bio to us, click on the “Home” tab of this webpage and read “We want to hear about what you’ve been doing”.


Gary Davies

Penelope Elias

Nancy Guberman

Cynthia Lam

Alick Lau

Jeanette Lewis

Ruby Lewis

Sally Lockhart

Thelma Silver