Partners with a purpose, social work team stresses service
By Blair Boone
Both Ellen Grant-Bishop, Ph.D. '79, M.S.W. '74 & B.A. '72, and Lee Gross Anthone, Ed.B. '51, have years of experience motivating others. They're also accustomed to setting and achieving ambitious goals, which makes them perfect choices to spearhead the school's $2.5 million challenge to its alumni, supporters and friends.
Each brings unique skills to the task. And each has a special relationship with the School of Social Work and UB. Grant-Bishop received all three of her degrees from the university. Anthone earned her degree in education, and her active role in community service led to close ties with Grant-Bishop, the school and School of Social Work dean Lawrence Shulman. Together, they offer a wide-ranging perspective on how the School of Social Work's campaign will benefit not just UB, but the wider community as well.
Indeed, the campaign's first goal is to bolster the school's programs. Top priorities include recruiting new faculty, enhancing opportunities for students and increasing community outreach.
"We need to attract good professors," says Anthone. "Dean Shulman has been seeking out top people for the positions. Our students certainly deserve the very best in teaching."
"I'd say that the research mission of the university is so very important," adds Grant-Bishop. "Dean Shulman has taken that to a higher level. Along with research, the school's presence in the community and its partnership with local agencies is something we have to make a priority. Programs such as the V.I.S.A. Center on the university's South Campus, which works with students who have disciplinary problems in the public schools, are excellent outreach programs." The center, a collaboration between the School of Social Work and the Buffalo Public Schools, helps students who have been suspended from the Buffalo Public School system. It is financed by a New York State legislative initiative grant and began accepting students in November 2000.
Community outreach and productive partnerships come easily for both Anthone and Grant-Bishop. In 1994, Anthone founded Buffalo's Child Advocacy Center. The center provides medical services, family support and legal instruction for sexually abused children, coordinating efforts by local agencies, law enforcement and health professionals. Grant-Bishop's career includes 12 years as commissioner of mental health for Erie County. In fact, it was their collaboration in getting the center up and running that led to their current partnership as cochairs of the School of Social Work's campaign.
"Ellen became involved first, and she recruited me," says Anthone, laughing, "[though] I graduated from the School of Education."
"What a coup!" enthuses Grant-Bishop, also laughing. "Isn't that amazing?" She explains, "I was on one of the advisory boards, and Dean Shulman and I were talking about how we needed some diversity of thought, and some good people who have a fabulous community presence. I knew Lee from her work with the Child Advocacy Center when I was commissioner of mental health. If you know Lee, she just touches so many lives. It seemed like a great fit for the School of Social Work."
Just as their earlier cooperation succeeded admirably, so did the campaign, getting off to an outstanding start with a $1 million gift from alumnus Leslie A. Brun, B.S. '74. An international investment advisor who used his social work degree to build a $32 billion business, Brun gave $500,000 to endow a fellowship to recruit and support minority graduate students in social work. In addition, he's pledged another $500,000 in matching grants, challenging other alumni by offering to match any gift of $1,000 or more, up to a total of $500,000.
Thanks to Brun's gift and others, the school is already halfway to reaching its campaign goal. Both Grant-Bishop and Anthone stress that there's much more to be done to meet that goal. They want every alumnus to understand the importance of giving, and that each gift, no matter how large or small, is important.
"I think the interest is here," says Anthone. "People just need to be asked. I think we have to broaden our base and reach out to people, even if it's five dollars or ten dollars, then build on that."
"Absolutely," concurs Grant-Bishop. "That's how you have to do it-one by one."
They also stress the importance of getting and staying involved with the school. "Unfortunately, the younger people are working and they don't always have the time to give to this kind of thing," Anthone observes.
"I think the school is doing much better in contacting alumni locally, nationally and internationally," says Grant-Bishop. "But we need to do more."
Doing more comes naturally to these two extraordinary women. Both have won numerous awards and recognition for leadership. In 1999, Anthone received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the local Hope for Tomorrow Foundation. She is also a member of Leadership Buffalo, a local organization devoted to promoting improved communication and cooperation among business, government, health care, education, criminal justice, human services and the clergy.
In addition to serving as mental health commissioner, Grant-Bishop built a thriving consulting business that was profiled in Essence magazine, and also wrote a book on management skills titled Managing in Black and White: A Guide for the Professional Woman of Color. Earlier this year, she was named president and CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital. Grant-Bishop, who began her health-care career as a nurse at Erie County Medical Center, is the first woman and first African American to serve as the hospital's president. She is also on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) advisory board, and was recently elected president of the New York State chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "I like to think I carry the flag for the school and the university wherever I go," says Grant-Bishop.
Thanks to their personal and professional involvement with the School of Social Work and in the community, Grant-Bishop and Anthone are well-positioned to see the positive effects of gifts to the school's campaign.
"I think the V.I.S.A. program is extremely important," says Anthone. "These children who are expelled from school for violence, instead of being at home [unsupervised] or somewhere worse, are in a daily program where they're taught and receive behavior modification training."
"Also, Brenda Miller's research on alcoholism and families is very important," says Grant-Bishop, referring to a cross-border collaboration between UB's Center for Research on Urban Social Work Practice and Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Led by School of Social Work Professor and Center Director Miller, it provides a highly structured 14-week skills-building program designed to help break the cycle of alcohol abuse. "Because of my involvement with NIH, I'm very concerned that we continue to remind the public that alcohol is a drug that can spread so quickly to other addiction and substance abuse problems.
"Social work touches many lives," Grant-Bishop adds. "You can talk about health. You can talk about education. There's even some spillover into management with the whole area of emotional intelligence: If people don't know how to relate to others, they're going to be failures as managers."
"I think the School of Social Work has the potential for affecting every one of us in ways we may not even be aware of," concludes Anthone. "It impacts us in our daily lives."
That's reason enough to give.
Blair Boone, Ph.D. '84, is a Buffalo-based freelance writer.