Melissa Jonson-Reid Installed as Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor in Social Work

Faculty; Social Work

On May 2, 2016, Professor Melissa Jonson-Reid was installed as the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor in Social Work. Jonson-Reid is the Director of the Center for Violence and Injury Prevention at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a leading scholar on child welfare issues.

Jonson-Reid, who joined the Brown School in 1997 as an assistant professor, was congratulated by Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton on this “highest level of academic accomplishment.”

The Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professorship in Social Work was established in 2004 to honor a couple whose research helped to develop and strengthen the body of social work knowledge. Ralph Pumphrey was a nationally recognized expert in both social work and its history. He joined the Brown School faculty in 1959 and served as acting dean in 1964. Muriel Pumphrey helped to build the social work program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and authored the landmark The Teaching of Values and Ethics in Social Work Education. Together the Pumphreys co-authored the book The Heritage of American Social Work.

Dean Edward F. Lawlor praised Jonson-Reid for her work as a national leader, community partner and “rigorous investigator” in school social work, child welfare and violence and injury prevention. “Her productivity every year is extraordinary … and she is a legendary mentor and teacher. I don’t think there could ever be a more appropriate recognition of the Pumphreys’ work. It’s synergy.”

Jonson-Reid presented the essence of her work to the assembled crowd of faculty, staff, alumni, family and friends. It comes down to basic questions, she said. “What happens to children after they are reported for child abuse and neglect? How do we locate windows of opportunity to fix what’s broken?”

In her thought-provoking presentation, she encouraged people to reframe how they think about these issues. “We have a habit of being reactive to the latest terrible news story, but we don’t have an ongoing public conversation. This must change.”

About Melissa Jonson-Reid

Melissa Jonson-Reid is the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor in Social Work and the director of the Center for Violence and Injury Prevention​ at the Brown School at Washington University. Prior to entering academia, Jonson-Reid administered school-based programming for youth in foster care and other high-risk populations and also worked as a domestic violence counselor. She continues to be deeply engaged with the practice community in research and evaluation work and has been fortunate to have many collaborative partners including school social workers, the Family Resource Center, The SPOT (Supporting Positive Opportunities with Teens), Nurses for Newborns, Parents as Teachers, St. Louis City Family Court, and numerous other state and regional agencies.

Jonson-Reid’s primary line of research has been understanding children’s cross-sector services use and outcomes with the goal of improving program and policy responses for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Her other work includes school-based services evaluation and child maltreatment prevention. Jonson-Reid’s peer-reviewed publications, books, and chapters crosscut child welfare, criminal justice, education, health, public health and social work.

Like her research, her teaching, mentoring and leadership work is multidisciplinary. Jonson-Reid has developed educational programming in school social work, law and social work, and child maltreatment and youth violence. She chairs the new Master of Social Work concentration​ in Violence and Injury Prevention at the Brown School.

About Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey

Ralph Pumphrey, a nationally recognized expert in both social work and its history, graduated from Miami University and received a doctorate in English Social History from Yale University. He taught a humanities course in Yale’s Department of Electrical Engineering until 1937, when his work with the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities spurred a career change. After earning a diploma from the New York School of Social Work (now known as Columbia University) in 1940, Pumphrey spent the next 15 years at social service agencies as a researcher and director. From 1956 to 1959 he taught social work at New York University before joining the Brown School faculty in 1959. He served as acting dean of the Brown School in 1964 and chaired the Faculty Senate Council from 1965 to 1967. A dedicated teacher, he took great interest in his students, frequently serving as dissertation adviser. Upon his retirement, Pumphrey was named professor emeritus. He died in 1997.

Muriel Pumphrey graduated from Oberlin College and received her doctorate in social welfare from Columbia University. A professor emerita of social work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL), she helped build the social work program there. Through her efforts, UMSL earned accreditation for a master’s program in social work. She authored The Teaching of Values and Ethics in Social Work Education, a landmark book in the field of social work education. Her work marked a sea change in the way social work practitioners viewed themselves and their clients. Together, the Pumphreys co-authored The Heritage of American Social Work. She died in 2000.