Congratulations!! You and fellow graduates of the Centennial Graduating Class of Spring 2021 have become professional social workers under arduous and historic conditions. As you move into your social work career, please know that the faculty and leadership of our school are proud of your dedication, your achievements and your resiliency.
During this last year, your lives have been changed in ways we could have never imagined. While you have lived through the effects of the COVID pandemic and societal racial injustice, you have developed skills to manage adversity and lead social change. You have lived your social work values by showing compassion, by standing up to challenge stigmas and prejudice, by supporting and building community, and by promoting health equity.
Spring 2021 Centennial Class graduates, you have earned respect, gratitude and admiration from the Michigan Social Work community and the university. You are the leaders and best, and we are confident that you are fully prepared to take on the challenges facing our world. You are effective, practiced facilitators and leaders who know how to take a stand, address injustice and engage the community. I look forward to seeing how you apply your talents and wish you every success as you reach out, raise hope and change society.
While we cannot celebrate commencement face to face, know that you hold a special place in our hearts.
Stay Safe and Go Blue,
Dean and Carol T. Mowbray Collegiate Professor of Social Work
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, made history when he became Detroit’s Health Commissioner at age 30 — making him the youngest health official in a major American city. Today, the epidemiologist is a frequent CNN contributor, host of the podcast America Dissected, and a leading progressive activist—dubbed one of the movement’s “brightest young stars” by Senator Bernie Sanders.
As Health Commissioner, El-Sayed rebuilt Detroit’s Health Department during the city’s municipal bankruptcy. He led the department to multiply city funding for public health tenfold, attract millions of dollars in grants and become a national leader in public health innovation.
El-Sayed graduated with highest distinction from the University of Michigan in 2007. El-Sayed is a recipient of the U-M Bicentennial Alumni Award and the author of Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic and Medicare for All: A Citizens Guide.
James (Jim) Toy, MSW ‘81, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University of Michigan 2021 Spring Commencement.
The name “Jim Toy” is synonymous with the queer movement in the state of Michigan. Toy has devoted his life to championing the rights of individuals and groups experiencing discrimination. He cofounded the Detroit Gay Liberation Front and the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front, and created a safe space for members of U-M’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
In response to a petition from the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front, U-M opened the Human Sexuality Office, which was later renamed the Spectrum Center, in 1971. It was the first on-campus office to support queer students at a higher education institution in the United States.
As a human sexuality advocate at the center, Toy educated the university community and others about the nature of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, the oppression facing the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ rights.Additionally, Toy led the drive to update U-M’s nondiscrimination bylaw and served in U-M’s affirmative action office from 1994 until he retired in 2008. He continues to work as a community counselor and therapist.
Toy served on the Michigan House of Representatives Civil Rights Committee Task Force on the Family and Sexuality, and helped develop the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Transgender Advocacy Project. Washtenaw County’s LGBTQ center is named the Jim Toy Community Center in his honor. Toy has also been recognized with the Michigan Lesbian and Gay Community Lifetime Achievement Award and the Spirit of Detroit Award.
Gary Anderson graduated from the University of Michigan School of Social Work in 1976 and spent his career as an advocate for children and youth. To highlight just a few of his accomplishments, he has been the editor for the journal Child Welfare, Director of the Michigan State University of Social Work, and he has served on Michigan’s Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. For over a decade he has led the state-funded Child Welfare In-service Training Project, training thousands of child welfare workers and supervisors in Michigan.
Tony Salazar earned his MSW from the School of Social Work in 1975 and has dedicated his career to rebuilding distressed urban communities. He has specialized in developing innovative projects - such as transit villages, earthquake recovery projects and the first LGBTQ senior development in the U.S. He was inducted into the affordable housing hall of fame, and is an adjunct professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, where he teaches affordable housing and urban development.
During our Centennial, we also celebrate the inspirational actions of members of our Michigan Social Work Community who have paved the way. One of those is E’dora Morton. In 1930, this courageous social work student crossed racial barriers to become the first Black student to live in U-M’s Mosher-Jordan Hall.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106