IFSW is sad to report the death of our former President Gayle Gilchrist James who died on 30th May 2008 after a long and courageous journey living with cancer.
Many will remember her typically spirited participation in the IFSW 50th anniversary conference in Munich in 2006, her last IFSW conference. As a participant in the platform panel discussion about the history of IFSW, she showed her vitality, humour and commitment to social work — with little outward evidence of the personal struggle in which she was already engaged.
Gayle served as IFSW President from 1988 to 1992 and made a distinguished and personal contribution to international social work. Her leadership was brilliant, innovative, sophisticated and always inclusive. She was awarded the first Andrew Mouravieff-Apostol Medal in 2004 in recognition of her longstanding contribution to international social work.
As a friend, she was kind and sensitive. Her successors as IFSW Presidents have all benefited from her generosity, warmth and wisdom. Personal comments about her from friends and colleagues always end by saying that she was such fun to be with.
Personally, and professionally, we will miss her deeply.
Gayle was born 15th April 1940 in rural Alberta where she attended a one room school taught by her father. She obtained her MSW in social work in 1966 at the University of Toronto after having worked for 7 years as a Psychiatric Social Worker in Alberta. Since 1975 she teached at the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary in Alberta, where she was Associate Professor until she retired in 2004.
She was active in the Alberta Association of Social Workers and served as President 1979-81 until she became President of the Canadian Association of Social Workers and served in that position from 1981 to 1983. Her Executive IFSW career started in 1978 when she was elected Regional President for North America, a position she held for four years. She returned to the Executive Committee in 1986 and was elected as IFSW’s 10th President in 1988. She was instrumental in hosting the IFSW World Conference 1984 in Montreal and in the establishment of IFSW’s Human Rights Commission in 1988.
Gayle’s vision and caring have inspired countless professional social workers and social work associations around the world. Gayle Gilchrist James will be remembered for her many achievements nationally and internationally and for her humanity — a true global social work role model but above all a warm and generous person.
The Memorial Celebration of Gayle’s life will be held at the Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary, on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. IFSW will be represented by former President Suzanne Dworak-Peck. Veronica Marsman, President of the Canadian Association of Social Workers and IFSW Regional President for North America will also be present.
London/ Bern, 11th June 2008
David N Jones
IFSW President 2006-2010
with contributions from past Presidents and others
Secretary General, IFSW