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Friday November 9, 2018

Hello everyone, and welcome…

I’m Chris Sinding, I graduated in 1994 from the McMaster School of Social Work with an MA in Social Welfare Policy (when we had such a thing), and I’m presently the Director of the School.

Last year, at the prompting and encouragement of the Circle of Indigenous Social Work Action, the McMaster School of Social Work initiated a practice of formally recognizing the Land on which we meet and learn.

So this evening we begin with the recognition and acknowledgement that we come together – all the generations of us – on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations, and within the lands protected by the “Dish With One Spoon” wampum.

Dr. Chris Sinding, Director of the School of Social Work

Acknowledging the land, and reflecting on the Dish with One Spoon Wampum

The “Dish With One Spoon” wampum was an agreement among allied Nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. The wampum involves three rules: keep the dish clean, take only what you need, and leave something for everyone else, including the dish.  It is primarily about stewardship of the land. It also refers, as Renee Thomas Hill and other elders and Indigenous leaders on campus have said, to social relationships.

I remember reading historian Rick Hill’s account of those rules of this wampum, and finding so compelling this idea that we are responsible to leave something for everyone else including the dish : this idea that we are responsible for our shared container.

Thinking about the teaching of this wampum in relation to the Anniversary I began to see this weekend as a moment to pause in the flurry of the activity of it, in the headlong rush of the years, to recognize this particular dish: the infrastructure of us, this School of Social Work, this container of fifty years. This container for a fifty-year project of teaching and learning... so carefully created, built, defended; so vigorously challenged, reimagined, recrafted, extended. Full of flaws and contradictions and yet also held together with yearning and labour for this thing we call, with all our different generational language, social justice.

The Anniversary is a moment to recognize something of what the instructors and students and staff of past generations have left for the collective of us, and to consider what we are leaving for the dish now, as it holds – as it contains, shelters, brings together, offers platforms and places to stand – for the next ten and twenty and thirty and more years of us.

Sarah Adjekum, MSW graduate

I’m Sarah Adjekum, I graduated in 2017 from the MSW Critical Analysis program, and I’m part of the planning team for the Anniversary.

It was amazing being a part of planning the School's 50th anniversary. As I was looking through the yearbooks and photographs with Lorraine, I was filled with a deep pride to be part of something so profound.

All of the images we held symbolized a shared legacy that lives on in all of us through our work and our contributions to the school and to the community. We are that living legacy.


Planning the School's 50th Anniversary

And all of us seated together this weekend, pooling together our memories, achievements, and hopes, create in this space something so unique. The anniversary event represents an opportunity to dip into a reservoir built by students, staff, and faculty over the years, to be tended to and shared with future generations.  

I’m going to let you know something of the people who are meeting in this space this weekeend…


We are alumni from five generations, faculty and staff, instructors past and present, current students, friends of the School from the campus and the community.


In this room tonight there are graduates from almost every year since 1971.


Who’s here, who brought us together, and who we’re missing…

One member of our planning team, Lorraine Chapman, is celebrating a friend’s 75th birthday and isn’t here this weekend…  Lorraine began her BSW program in 1968. We appreciated the energy with which Lorraine took up a project of speaking with the volunteers, students and recent grads – she was intent to make them understand the significance of welcoming and recognizing alumni as they came into this space. Honouring the connection between students present and past, and, for alumni, the journey between then and now.

Transitions, Generational Change...

Chris: At Anniversaries like this, we think about transitions, generational change...  I want to take a moment to make sure everyone knows the faculty members and staff who are at the School now.

I’ll start with people who’ve been around for rather significant stretches of time - could you stand or wave please: Stephanie Baker Collins, Gary Dumbrill, Saara Greene, Sandy Preston, Rachel Zhou, staff members Darlene Savoy, Lorna O’Connell... Mirna Carranza and Ann Fudge Schormans are both at conferences, they send their greetings.

Then there is a group who have ‘been around’ the School and McMaster in a range of roles and positions for a long time, and in the past ten years have been properly installed as assistant professors in the School: Janice Chaplin, Bonnie Freeman, Randy Jackson and Jennie Vengris.  

And the newer (as in, within the last 10 years!) folks on this particular block, please make a point of meeting them... Ameil Joseph, Tara La Rose, Tammy Maikawa.

Retirements always send a kind of tremor through the foundation of a place, and we continue to miss colleagues who've retired over the past 10 years - Diane Allen, Roy Cain, Jim Gladstone, Susan Watt - and, we’re so glad to have with us today Sally Palmer, Jane Aronson, and Sheila Sammon. Naturally we've pressed Sally and Jane and Sheila into service over the weekend so you'll see them in various roles...

Lorraine Chapman said early in our planning meetings that we must make time to acknowledge losses, people who have been important to in the School of Social Work who have died over the past 10 years.  

There are many losses, we will each think of different people perhaps…  I’ll mention just a few names.

Harry Penny was the founding Director of the School; he oversaw the development of programs, undertook very careful selection of the early faculty members, and admitted the first students in 1968. He was previously the Director of the Hamilton Social Planning & Research Council and, as Jane said at the 40th Anniversary with Harry in the audience, he built into the foundation of the School the conviction that social work is about social justice and it is the business of a School of social work to be attuned to its community and to the challenges in a wider social world. And this was not a common framing of things in Schools of Social Work at the time...  Harry died in 2009 not long after his 90th birthday.

Those of who have been around for a while will remember Boris Stein and Karl Kinannen, two early faculty members who stayed at McMaster all of their working lives. Both died in 2017.

More recently Lisa Watt, who many of us knew as an exceptionally generous member of our School community over the past 10 years – she did her MSW and PhD with us, was a sessional teacher, contributor to all manner of School projects, including the Anniversary planning team – died in September.

This next performance is a love song and lament for the people we have lost over the last decade…  and then, the band will play on.