1 *Eloise Agger, 1975-1977 deceased
Founder of the Society and its first President, Eloise’s visionary leadership was critical in the formation of a vehicle for advocacy of social work practice and values. She understood the importance of the psycho-social perspective and wanted to establish the credibility of that perspective through both legislation and education. Her vision was large, including the whole metropolitan DC area. At a time when states were establishing clinical societies, Eloise saw the importance of uniting all three local jurisdictions into one. This played out well over time, as leaders organized across state and district lines, supporting legislative initiatives as they developed. She continued to play an important role over decades, supporting the admission of social workers to analytic programs, and was a founding member of the Clinical Social Work Institute, serving on its Board until her death. Her publications included articles on the importance of siblings in emotional development.
An article by Carolyn Gruber written for the GWSCSW News at the time of Eloise’s death in 2001 summarizes her spirit and commitment to clinical social work. In Carolyn’s words she was “first and foremost a life force. Oh, how we loved Eloise’s spirit. She lit up any room she entered. We never knew exactly when she might show up for a meeting. But when she did show up, she was totally there. She was irreverent in a way that was totally acceptable. When she was with us, her intellect, her humor, her sense of being present in the moment, would take over the agenda. What good humor. What apt expression of what was being discussed. What an irrepressible sense of the absurd. Eloise was one of the most accepting people we ever knew. She accepted herself and she accepted us likewise. We never doubted her good will. Our inspiration, our mentor, our leader, our outrageous cockeyed optimist.”
2 *Louisa Schwartz, 1977-1978 deceased
A resident and practitioner in the District, she was President when Maryland licensure passed in 1977. Our attorney and lobbyist in that effort, Peter Masetti, served as counsel to us in our successful efforts and continued to advise us during the early years of the Society. Later he became a judge and therefore could not help us with DC Licensure, recommending Larry Mirel, who became our counsel ten years later in our successful DC licensure efforts.
3 Vesta Downer, 1978-1979
Organizing and helping to shape the framework of the Society, Vesta lived and worked in Virginia where she was key to our obtaining licensure. She remembers organizing meetings in Presidents’ living rooms and especially in her own home, recalling a membership of approximately 15-20. A determined visionary, she organized lobbying efforts in Richmond that led to the successful passage of a licensure bill in 1978. It was a hard won battle, leading to clear definition of clinical s ocial work practice, and eventually, with a Vendorship Law passed later, to parity with psychiatrists and psychologists in the provision of independent mental health services.
4 Anne Stephansky, 1979-1981
A founding member of the Society, Anne worked steadily and patiently, building consensus among Society members. Work on legislation continued to be a focus of activity, primarily in Maryland and Virginia where licensing and parity laws were being established and challenged. With each challenge, more clinical social workers rallied and our membership grew.
She established monthly board meetings that met on Sunday mornings. Her husband, Ben, retired from the State Department, greeted Board Members with a warmth that made the trip to their home on Bancroft Place NW, DC, well worth the trip. The Agenda was established in advance with committee chairs giving reports that were succinct and thoughtful. The atmosphere was collegial; there was a feeling that we were building an organization critical to the health of Clinical Social Work and its unique contributions in the metropolitan area.
Later she started a Supervision Course for the Society, a big morale boost for Social Workers to be in charge of our own education; and independence from psychologists and MD’s, reflecting a maturation of our profession. She also made efforts to provide volunteer work in DC with Child Welfare, and later served on the Board of the Clinical Social Work Institute.
5 Fran Thomas, 1981-1983
An early member of the Society, Fran joined the Executive Board in 1977 and served as First Vice President for Legislative Affairs from 1979-1981. She credits learning the leadership skills required in her role as Chairperson of the D.C. Coalition of Social Work Health Care Providers, as having developed doing legislative work on behalf of the Society. Fran’s leadership and coalition building is legendary, her role was pivotal in obtaining DC licensure. Committed to advancing the quality of human services across all three jurisdictions, and to her role as an advocate for clinical social work, she personifies the sacrifices of our early members in working as hard on Society business as she did in her private practice.
Fran’s diligence and diplomacy opened many doors including institutions that provided meeting space for our monthly meetings. Under her leadership we moved from meeting in members’ homes to public spaces while our membership continued to flourish. Late night phone calls and work seven days a week before technology made communication a click away, her old fashioned values of hard work and persistence were formative in shaping our Society history.
6 Marilyn Stickle, 1983-1985
“During my presidency we continued to build the framework of the Society, working on legislation in all three jurisdictions, improving our referral panel procedures, mentoring younger members, increasing our continuing education activities, and fundraising, Most importantly, during my presidency we focused on the goal of attaining social work licensure in the District of Columbia. The Health Occupations Bill, proposed in October of 1983, presented a grave threat that could have prohibited social workers from practicing in the District. It also presented an opportunity to organize the social work community in an unprecedented way. As I finished my second term, language was in place in the Health Occupations Bill that protected the integrity of clinical social workers, in what was widely viewed as the best licensure law in the nation. Additionally, we attained this landmark legislation by building coalitions with NASW and 25 organizations, including the Washington Council of Agencies representing 245 member agencies.
As President during the 10th anniversary of our Society, we had grown to 300 members, had achieved parity, licensure in the District was well on its way to passage, and coalitions with other mental health organizations were strongly in place. We were in a phase of development that enabled us to focus increasingly on the important educational aspects of the Society.“
7 Marcie Solomon, 1985-1987
"It was an amazing, exciting time. I had never been involved in anything political before, and I found myself in the leadership of the successful efforts to get vendorship in Maryland, licensure and vendorship in Virginia and licensure and vendorship in D.C., all at the same time. The teamwork, creativity and generosity all around was simply wonderful. What an opportunity and honor it was for me."
8 Carolyn Gruber, 1987-1989
“I think I want to be thought of as the education president. Was able to focus on that because we won so many good political battles just prior to my presidency. Licensure, vendorship, etc. in three jurisdictions. So then we could focus on improving ourselves. We had lectures, seminars, and small groups. We created a booklet for continuing educational opportunities. We had monthly meetings with good speakers. The newsletter was full of information. This was all before the internet. We worked with the Federation on issues such as the Kennedy Waxman bill. We went to the hill. It was a strange time in my life when I was getting my doctorate, beginning my work in academia and testifying all at the same time.”
9 Janis Colton, 1989-1991
“It was a great honor and pleasure to be president of the Clinical Society at an important moment in our history. It seemed to me that all we had been working toward came together and moved us into a fully functioning professional organization, administratively, educationally and in growth of membership. Our continuing education program assumed a new, enlarged and more focused format, our membership soared to over 600 and the energy that characterized us all the formative years gave a wonderful boost to every endeavor. What a great time we all had!”
10 Susan Horne-Quatannens, 1991-1993
“When I assumed the presidency of the GWSCSW we had begun to enter a new era. Some of our battles for recognition had been won. We had licensure in all the jurisdictions that surround us and in Virginia we had a mandated reimbursement law (insurers could no longer exclude us.) We could finally turn our attention to increased sophistication in clinical practice through educational offerings and requirements in licensure. My fondest memories are more personal. I can't remember ever asking anyone to help or serve that didn't say yes. Social Workers are indeed wonderful, giving people.”
11 Golnar Simpson, 1993-1995
During her term of office Golnar worked to build bridges with other organizations both within and outside of social work. Her vision of the Society is one of connectedness, as one component of a larger system, helping to set the standards for serving the most needy. She supported our heavy legislative agenda, including three states and the Federal level, while moving our education program forward. Membership was 800+ strong. Following her term she became President of the National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work, at the time of the move toward Guild affiliation. It was challenging. She appreciated the work Alice did to at our local level to engage all of our members in a vote; we were the only Society to hold a referendum. She later served as Dean of the Clinical Social Work Institute and was inducted as a Pioneer by NASW.
12 *Alice Kassabian, 1995-1997 deceased
An early member of the Society, she served on the Board from 1975-1977 and then again from 1987 until she became President in 1995. Connie Ridgeway interviewed Alice in 2007 for an article in News & Views in which she reviewed her Presidency. “With the rise of managed care, clinicians were making less money and struggling against the loss of their autonomous practices due to invasive managed care policies. Social workers nationwide were looking for a way to rectify this, and the Clinical Social Work Federation was urging its members to unionize. Through a referendum of all its members, the Society voted against Guild affiliation. It seemed as though the Guild issue split the profession on both the national and state levels. The Society went through a difficult time and lost members.” Committed to social justice, our biopsychosocial identity, and upholding high professional standards Alice was active for decades at both local and national levels. She established the first non-profit daycare center in Fairfax, published on the genocide of Armenians, and served on the Board of the Clinical Social Work Institute.
13 *Eileen Selz, 1997-1999 deceased
Eileen saw herself as a transitional leader, aware of the enormous changes facing our profession, coming in to office at a particularly challenging time for the Society. Growth of the Society with rapid turnover of committee chairs and of executive committee members had reached a crescendo. It was becoming harder to find officers and members who could volunteer significant amounts of time. Linda O’Leary had served as a paid part-time administrative assistant through several presidencies and had provided a sense of continuity, however, she had taken on duties at the Federation, and was unavailable to provide more time. George Seltz, Eileen’s husband, was a retired Naval officer and like spouses before him, helped to attend to Society business. Despite his additional, significant support, more was needed. The decision was made to hire a full-time director.
Spanning three jurisdictions, no Society in the nation had as much legislation to monitor and address as ours. Also, managed care was affecting every aspect of practice, including record keeping, requirements for authorization of treatment sessions, and income. Transitioning to a new practice environment was proving to be the greatest challenge the Society had faced.
Additionally, our Society had to make a decision regarding affiliation with the Guild, a union of Office and Professional Employees of the AFL/CIO. This was an effort to deal with the challenges of managed care, led by the Federation. This created tremendous controversy and required a great deal of our time and resources. Would this be an answer to the problems faced with managed care, or simply another drain on our budget? In the end our members voted not to join, despite the Federations’ decision to do so.
Given the challenges facing the Society, a membership survey was conducted in 1998. The results were statistically significant, providing a historical document demonstrating the evolution of clinical practice at that time in our history. It will be added to our archives for those interested in more details. The section on technology reflects our evolution in communication: 48% of respondents were interested in using e-mail to receive information, 65% thought we should create a webpage and 44% said they would use one if we did, 58% were interested in training in the use of computers, and 21% were interested in learning how to use fax machines. These statistics reflect the changes in communication that have enabled our Society to survive and thrive in the present.
14 Irwin Dubinsky, 1999-2000
“I was called late one night and asked if I wanted to be a member of some committee, or another committee or President. I said President, not really believing it would happen. Three weeks later I got a letter from GWSCSW with a ballot inside. I saw my name running for President unopposed. It was a shock. I soon recovered and thought maybe I could really help this organization. Before being a social worker, I had experience managing organizations as well as teaching management at GWU. I had worked with various non-profit clinics in Anacostia and Connecticut Ave. I was a career changer studying at the Washington School of Psychiatry and IPI. I was actively attending conferences, was an adjunct Professor of Social Work at VCU, but I did not know the Board members or the history of the organization.
Six months prior to my becoming President, the Board hired an office manager for $50,000 and raised the dues from $135 to $215. I came into the Presidency, not knowing much of the preceding history, but realizing having raised the dues, was causing the rapid loss of members. There had been much turmoil in the Society about joining the Federation's medical plan that required all our members to join. I tried my best to address the dire financial situation by recommending letting go of the office manager, reducing the dues to prevent further loss of members, as well as other measures to bring financial stability back to the Society.
We were all intimately involved with the Clinical Social Work Institute from 2001 to 2010. It was a Social Work Doctoral program in DC, but we could not raise the $500,000 needed to keep it running.”
15 Nancy Nollen, 2000-2001
“2000-2001 was a year of tremendous challenge for the Clinical Society. A steady decline in membership to approximately 400 members over the past three years, coupled with concerns over the continued demands of managed care on our practices, and the looming question of Guild membership complicated our work. The decision about whether to join the Clinical Social Work Federation Guild resulted in internal debate that created a split between members who wanted to join the Guild and those who did not. This created a further decline in membership during my term.
Attracting members to volunteer for board and committee positions was also a challenge; this had been a growing issue during several previous Presidencies. Prior to becoming president of the Society in 2000, I had already served as a board member for three years in the position of vice president. Four months into my term of office, the secretary dropped out due to illness. That left a Board of the President, Treasurer, and a small core of long-time former board officers to serve as advisers. With a diminished Board, an Executive Director was hired to meet the demands of managing the day-to-day affairs of the Society. As membership continued to decline this solution became increasingly difficult to maintain as we did not have the funds to pay her salary.
With all the above factors in play, the Board was forced to make the hard decision not to fully fund the Continuing Education program in that year; the money was simply not there. This was an unpopular decision creating further dissatisfaction among members. The Society was in crisis. Most importantly, no members stepped forward to serve as officers, a legal requirement for our continued operation. With the advice of legal counsel we continued to try and recruit new officers with the understanding that there was a time limit beyond which we could not operate without them. Fortunately, new leadership did come forward and helped us transition to our current, healthy organization.”
16 Marilyn Austin, 2001-2002
“The year 2001 is a time which most of us will never forget!
But in addition to the life-changing tragedy on Sept. 11, our Clinical Society was struggling. Our membership had been close to 600, but by this point we were down by quite a few.
The Clinical Institute was up and running, and took the focus, time and energy of many of our members. There were also several other new training institutes in town, as well as the ever-present NASW and at least three schools of Social Work in the area which drew talent and attention. Our membership dues had increased, the Clinical Federation was demanding our overdue contributions, and there was a great difference of opinion about how to run our Society.
By the spring of 2001, the nominating committee had seemed to reach a dead end in finding new people to take over the offices of our Clinical Society. In early June, as special meeting was called on a Sunday afternoon to ascertain interest by our members in continuing to function. Several Board members and past presidents were there, asking for volunteers to take over the organizational offices, if we were to continue. Silence.....
Then a woman finally raised her had and said she would take the nomination for President.
At that time, I was living in Calvert County by the Bay, and the distance was a couple of hours away from Washington. I, however, thinking that I would volunteer for Vice-president - as there probably wasn’t much I would have to do...raised my hand. Others volunteered for the remaining offices and the meeting was dismissed.
By the next morning, Susan Quatannens was on the phone, telling me that the woman who had agreed to be president, had decided not to take that on.......so would I agree to do take that position? I agreed to one year.
We needed to reorganize: dues were lowered a bit; monthly dinner meetings and speakers were arranged; the Newsletter became an important focus; and we began negotiations with the Federation about our debt with them. By the end of the year, our Society was back on track......and my year was up!”
17 Margot Aronson, 2002-2005
“The opportunity to help re-start the Society came at a perfect time. Having just retired from my state job, I knew I had a lot to learn about private practice, and I wanted to get to know some experienced clinicians. And I had time.
Volunteering to take over the newsletter was an easy call for me after years of professional experience as an editor. Editing articles and talking to the writers provided a quick and helpful GWSCSW education. Then Marilyn Austin said her term was up, and it was up to me to take the helm, because no one else was willing to do it. Hmmm.
Marilyn promised to help me through the transition, and indeed, she was wonderful. As it turned out, all the folks with leadership roles were extraordinary: Dolores Paulson and her Education Committee kept our excellent CEU program going without missing a beat; Ann Aukamp (and later Janet Dante) kept us on track with our finances; Charles Rahn built membership back up to the 500's; Cecilia McKay (and then Diana Seasonwein) handled the newsletter with skill and elan; Tricia Braun stepped up to work on development issues; Eileen Ivey kept our Referral Panel active, and Dolores, Audrey Walker, and Connie Hendrickson convinced ethics guru Frederic Reamer to give us the first of his fabulous (and very profitable) all-day conferences. Joel Kanter, our vice president, was amazing; he was a thoughtful, always on-target advisor who took into account the details as well as the overview, our Society history as well as the long view to the future. Joel created the listserv, engineered the transition of the Referral Panel from a phone service to a web-based service, and organized a variety of stimulating dinner programs to rekindle the interest of our former members.
So it was a slam dunk, right? Well, not exactly. When our administrator, Jan Sklennik, called to suggest it was time to get membership renewals going, I was like a deer in the headlights: the procedure was one of many that hadn't been re-established yet. Also, it turned out, by the way, that we were $14,000 in arrears to the Clinical Social Work Federation (now the Clinical Social Work Association - CSWA). Then the IRS let us know that we were being fined for neglecting to file returns (even when you don't pay, you have to file). And NASW-Md informed us they would not agree to renew the contract of our legislative coalition's lobbyist, Steve Buckingham...which was going to have the effect of breaking up the legislative coalition (NASW Maryland and DC chapters, GWSCW and the Maryland Society, and the Social Work Hospital Administrators- Maryland chapter) that had been active and effective in Annapolis for a dozen years. Meanwhile, the Federation was in the midst of its own major crisis.
At the end of the day, our goal was to put the Society back on solid ground, and while it's true that we did a lot by the seat of our pants, I think overall we made good progress. What I am proudest of is this: I put our core values on the logo. Education, Advocacy, and Community. These values got us started; they are the context when difficult decisions must be made, and I believe they are basic to why folks are willing to stay intensely involved.”
18 Diana Seasonwein, 2005-2007
“During my 2 years as President I was challenged, confused, and unsure of how to be president. I had just returned from living overseas in Prague when Margot cajoled me, as only Margot can, to be editor of the Newsletter. “Are you crazy? “I asked Margot. No, I was the crazy one—I took the job. It was rewarding and fun—Margot and I stayed up into the wee hours, editing, laughing and crying. And Jan was always there to help us out. How I’ll miss her. Next, Margot cajoled me into being President. We had had so much fun as editor/president, that we just switched places—she was again newsletter editor, while I attempted to fill her unfillable shoes as President. At least I knew how to write, and to edit, but this…
Under my watch, we hired Jan as our paid executive administrator; her services were priceless.
We became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) entity, with the expert guidance of a pro bono attorney from a large law firm.
Lawyers are my friends, and as such, I enjoy the legal aspects of our work. Previously, the Society had retained two other law firms before I found the law firm who is the best fit for our prepaid legal plan. Sheila Cahill, a practicing clinical social worker and JD, and I wrote the contract for our current firm. For several years I remained the liaison to the law firm.
And lest we forget: Beatnik Pete. When one is President, one receives phone calls and invitations galore. So it was with Beatnik Pete. He is a very engaging man, who wanted the Clinical Society to provide consulting to his grass roots organization of stabilized chronic mentally ill followers. I arranged several workshops/presentations, which were well attended by his group. Alas, Pete went off his meds, but was lucky enough to become a patient at the NIMH for 1 year.
Ah, yes, these are some of the perks of being President of our wonderful Clinical Society.”
19 Susan Post, 2007-2010
“I was president of GWSCSW during the most recent decade of our history, from 2007 to 2010. During my time in office, we concentrated on expanding our reach and programs in several ways. More events began to take place in Virginia as we worked to help MD and DC members overcome their paralyzing fear of crossing the Potomac, and we began to pay more attention to the needs of our graduate members. Their ranks in our membership has since grown steadily, so that today our early career members benefit from more programs aimed at their specific needs and also contribute an entirely new energy and set of skills (especially with social media) to the Society at large. We also began to bring a wider range of treatment modalities into our educational programs, so members who were not practicing solely psychodynamically could benefit from a wider range of offerings that included family and couples treatment, alternative therapies, sex therapies and others. The first wine and cheese event took place during my last year as we worked to find informal ways for members to get to know each other and feel a greater sense of investment in our Society. It was a transitional and dynamic three-year period, the fruits of which have largely been seen in its aftermath. It was both an honor and a challenge to lead, and I learned many lessons the hard way, made some good friends, and had a lot of fun. And that’s what I wish for every member today.”
20 Sydney Frymire, 2010-2012
“The best part for me was working with Board members who had rebuilt our society and new members, like me. Thanks to the executive committee we started new committees, organized our finances, and continued to enjoy the esprit de corps that energizes us and makes being President a rewarding experience.”
21 Kate Rossier, 2012-2014
“The two years, 2012-14, in which I held the position of presidency were ones in which we continued to forge our way into the 21st century world of technology and all of its impacts on communications - continued website development, addition of a society Facebook page, ever increasing use of the listserv, and so on. Additionally we increased our ties to our national partner, CSWA, with attendance at their first ever summit, which was held in Crystal City in October of 2012. Along with CSWA, we attended to the impending predicted impacts of the Affordable Healthcare Act. We also did our best to compassionately and thoughtfully respond to the horrible shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Much of the work was not glamorous at all and had to do with updating how we do things and shifting procedures so that they worked for us in the current world of clinical social work and beyond.
However, on a lighter note, we began our preparations for the recognizing and celebrating this, our 40th year. Part of that effort was one of the highlights for me personally of my two years as prez: I invited all Past Presidents to two gatherings which Golnar hosted and at which I learned a great deal about the history of our society - which of course paralleled the national history of clinical social work's fight for recognition and inclusion as mental health care providers. They were very inspiring teachers for me and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. The meetings culminated in two newsletter articles - one that I wrote and then in an excellent review of GWSCSW's history that Chana Lockerman wrote for last September's issue of News and Views.
Another highlight was the bimonthly meetings I had with our wonderful administrator, Jan Sklennik, who functioned as the backbone of our organization - keeper of much institutional knowledge, juggler of numerous society deadlines, graphic designer of all of our publications - newsletter, postcards, brochures, etc. We had wonderful working lunches and she was a rock.
Overall, the experience of being president was a tremendous one. I had the great pleasure of working with wonderful Executive Committees, as well as the larger Boards, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tremendous teamwork and collaboration.”
22 Nancy Harrington, 2014-present
“Volunteerism and engagement have been the Mantras for my term. The Executive Committee and the Board have worked very hard to incorporate these into the fabric of this Society. We’ve hired consultants to help us institutionalize that effort, with much success. We are currently entering an era where one of our formal activities will actually feature a Volunteer Fair. I have great hopes for this as an annual event.
Reorganization and streamlining have been the foci during the first year of my presidency, all towards the end of standardizing and simplifying roles and responsibilities for the volunteers, past, present and future. There is also a back to basics organizational pull with our three branches of the Society—Education, Advocacy and Community, all overseen by the umbrella of Communications, and its continued expansion. The Society has been upgraded by technological gains put into place under the lead of Kate Rossier, that has brought our running of the organization into the twenty first century.
The making of this chronology has been an exciting endeavor, finishing up on the work of Kate Rossier’s earlier conventions with the Past Presidents. Those meeting and the collection of historical recollections of the remaining Past Presidents, has culminated in this document which will be archived for eternity, or until the internet explodes.
I feel so lucky to be President during this 40th Anniversary. What a huge honor it has been to witness and be a part of this wonderful process. I have loved every minute.”