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Our History


Download our history book, What We Believe 1909-2007 here‚Äč


The Olivia BuildingThe Brown School's history at Washington University dates back to 1909, when the University became the home of the St. Louis School of Social Economy. From 1909-1910, the school occupied space in the Olivia Building at 1023 N. Grand Avenue (pictured on right).

The School became an official department of Washington University in 1913, but a study found that the community had little interest in the school. The University of Missouri took over direction of the school and renamed it the Missouri School of Social Economy.




As social work education took shape on the national level, Washington University launched a training course for social workers. Frank J. Bruno, a professor from University of Minnesota lead the University's efforts in this area.

Bettie Bofinger Brown, wife of Brown Shoe Company founder George Warren Brown, provided funds to permanently endow the George Warren Brown Department of Social Work and provide for the creation of Brown Hall, the first building erected for the purpose of social work education.




In 1945, the department became a school, offering a BS in Public Administration and the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Benjamin E. Youngdahl, another Minnesota transplant, became dean. During his tenure, the school developed its first 10-year strategic plan, started its doctoral program, and became the first school at the University to admit African American students.  Youngdahl was a national leader in social work, President of the American Association of Social Work from 1951 to 1953. He was a social reformer - responsible for racially integrating the Hilltop Campus at Washington University.



VP Humphrey Hubert delivers a lecture 

During this period, the school's International Programs blossomed. The school also launched the Benjamin E. Youngdahl lecture. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey delivered the first lecture (pictured on right).


The School prospered under the leadership of Dean Shanti Khinduka. Technology arrived with a new computer lab opening in 1983 offering access to information about social work field placements. A new building, Goldfarb Hall, more than doubled the School's space.  Under his deanship which was characterized by a growing emphasis on research, the George Warren Brown School of Social Work rose from among the top five schools to become ranked no. 1. Kinduka initiated chaired professorships and research centers at the School.


2004- Present  

China Institute Commencement CeremonyUnder the leadership of Dean Edward F. Lawlor, new partnerships with academic institutions in China, India, and Chile were established that offered students and faculty new opportunities for international exchanges.

Interdisciplinary work, which has always been a part of the rich history of the school, gains even more attention with the launch of the school's Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program.  With the addition of new public health research faculty and staff, along with new grants, the school nearly doubles in size.


The school's Master of Social Work (MSW) program is reacredited for eight more years by the Council on Social Work Education.  This year also marked the graduation of the school's first Master of Public Health (MPH) class.


The school's Master of Public Health (MPH) receives accreditation in 2012 from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the accrediting body for public health schools and programs.


The School launches the Brown School expansion project in 2013. A new building, as well as renovations to Brown Hall and Goldfarb Hall, will support the growth of social work, public health, and public policy at the school and provide a unified location for the school's research centers on the Danforth campus.

During this year,  the Brown School helps to found the Association for Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH), which represents schools and programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Dean Lawlor accepts a leadership role as the organization defines itself and develops governance and strategies.


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