In Memoriam: UConn School of Social Work Professor Alex Gitterman

Gitterman joined the UConn School of Social Work faculty in 1999, later serving as Zachs professor and director of the Ph.D. program.

Alex Gitterman, professor of social work, meets with graduate students at the School of Social Work on Aug. 28, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Alex Gitterman, professor of social work, meets with graduate students at the School of Social Work. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Professor Alex Gitterman, a highly regarded member of the UConn School of Social Work faculty for more than 20 years, died on March 24, 2024.

Gitterman’s national reputation in the field of social work derived from his many publications and presentations in social work practice areas, including the life model, vulnerability and resilience, mutual aid, and social work education and supervision.

“The School of Social Work community was deeply saddened to hear of Professor Gitterman’s passing,” says Dean and Professor Laura Curran. “He was a beloved member of the faculty at UConn and he had an outsized impact on social work education and the profession more broadly.”

Gitterman graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in 1960 before earning his Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Hunter College School of Social Work two years later. He worked in social service agencies and at the City University of New York before earning his doctoral degree in education from Columbia University Teachers College in 1972, where he taught for more than 30 years.

In 1999, he joined the UConn School of Social Work as a visiting professor before becoming a full professor in 2000. At UConn, Gitterman taught courses in the Individuals, Groups and Families Practice concentration, micro foundation method, and comparative social work practice. In 2007, he was named Zachs professor and director of the Ph.D. program, a role he served in for eight years.

“He was the finest example of a social work faculty member who demonstrated equal zeal, commitment and accomplishments in social work scholarship, teaching, mentoring and professional engagement,” says Professor and Dean Emerita Nina Rovinelli Heller, who worked and collaborated with Gitterman during his two decades at the School.

Heller notes that Gitterman was also a prolific writer whose most recent book, The Life Model of Social Work Practice: Advances in Knowledge and Practice (Columbia University Press), is in its fourth printing and is still widely used in social work education. In addition to his published books and articles, Gitterman shared his expertise through presentations at several other schools of social work, educational institutions and professional organizations. He was also a consultant for a number of social agencies.

A beloved teacher and mentor, Gitterman prepared generations of social work practitioners and scholars across the country and globe, says Heller. “Whether in person or online, Alex created a learning environment characterized by warmth, intellectual rigor, mutual aid, and the fostering of both curiosity and professional identity among his students.”

Gitterman’s many contributions were recognized with prestigious awards, including the Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award from the Council on Social Work Education; a Lifetime Contribution Award from the International Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups, Inc.; and a Robert Wood Johnson Exemplary Publication Award, among others.

He is survived by his wife Naomi and two children Sharon and Daniel.