Paul Gitlin, SSA professor and social worker, dies at 85

A new study seeks to demystify the connection between what we do and what we want.

By Angela Li

Paul Gitlin, an associate professor emeritus at the School of Social Service Administration (SSA), whose career as a devoted social worker for young children shaped the school’s curriculum, died last Monday. He was 85.

Gitlin’s experiences as a social worker helping school-age children informed his later work as an educator. He helped build SSA’s group work program along with professors Irving Spergel and Mary Lou Somers, and helped establish the Families, Individuals, and Communities (FIGS) sequence of classes for second-year Master’s students.

Gitlin was also briefly the school’s Director of Field Education, and he taught several classes on foundational clinical social work. He imparted to his students his love for working with children who suffered from emotional and behavioral problems.

“Paul Gitlin was a true social worker. His concern for vulnerable children was unparalleled. He cared deeply about ways in which theory could inform practice to enhance the well-being of children and their families,” Karen Teigiser, former senior lecturer and deputy dean for the curriculum, said in a University statement announcing Gitlin’s death.

Gitlin’s gift was his ability to connect to people.

“Relationships were at the heart of his life and work,” Teigiser said. “His connection to his students modeled the essence of social work practice. He invited them to develop self-awareness and honesty in their work. His warmth and genuineness were deeply affirming to his students, clients, colleagues and staff.”

“Paul did more than impart knowledge about how to effectively intervene to help families and individuals,” Charles Curie (A.M. ’79) said in an obituary published by the University.

“He challenged me to consider what I brought to the problem-solving process and consider how to utilize my experiences in conjunction with the evidence of what works. He became a true mentor and friend to each of us, helping us to be more effective through being genuine. It was a great gift.”

Gitlin was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where he received his Master of Science in 1954 and Doctorate of Social Work in 1968. He started as an assistant professor at SSA in 1964 and retired from SSA in 1992.

He was preceded in death by his wife Dorianne, and is survived by his children, Naomi (David Saltz), Ruth, and Lew (Laura), and grandchildren, Todd and Justin. Memorial services were held last Wednesday in Evanston.