Abstract and Keywords
Dr. Jack Otis (1923–2010) was best known for serving as Director of the Office of Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development during the Kennedy administration and was instrumental in establishing national standards for the accreditation of undergraduate social work education.
Jack Otis, social work educator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, where his immigrant father, Abraham Osipowitz, and his mother, Esther Goldberg, owned a local delicatessen. His parents immigrated to the United States from Antipolia, Poland.
Dr. Otis proudly served as a combat engineer in Japan during World War II. He attended Brooklyn College and received advanced degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Jack’s life experiences helped him choose social work as a profession as he felt it was the best way for him to directly help people. Therefore, his first passion was clinical social work. After gaining more experience, Jack realized that there were broad problems that needed attention if a person wanted to create positive change in the world. This fostered Jack’s interest in broader macro social problems and social policies that would provide help to a larger number of people. This emphasis afforded Jack to have an impact on the national level.
As part of his stellar career, Dr. Otis served as a consultant from 1961 to 1965 to the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime, chaired by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. He was deputy director of the Office of Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development during the Kennedy administration.
Jack joined the faculty at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, Austin, in 1965, as its third dean. He was dean of the School of Social Work from 1965 to 1977 and professor from 1978 to 1993. During his 28 years at the University, he transformed the School of Social Work from a small fledgling MSSW program to a nationally recognized educational program with bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. programs, as well as the Center for Social Work Research, Learning Resource Center, and the Continuing Education Center for Professional Development. Jack worked effectively with the University and with the Council on Social Work Education to build academic programs at all levels that exceeded national standards. Dr. Otis was instrumental in establishing national standards for the accreditation of undergraduate social work education. For several years, he was a site visitor and member of the Council on Social Work Education Commission on Accreditation.
When asked his opinion of what America needed to do to continue to be great, Dr. Otis replied,
America needs to live up to its early ideals that inspired so many people to come to this country who were oppressed and poverty stricken and came to live a better life—that, to me is the meaning we should continue to have and be a model for what freedom means by not only how we treat people from other countries but also how we treat our own people.
Dean Jack Otis had a profound, positive influence on the development of the School of Social Work at The University of Texas, Austin, and what it is today. But more importantly, his legacy will be most remembered for his exemplary work as a trailblazer in elevating the profession of social work.