July 23, 2020

Inaugural Gayle Gilchrist-James lecture given during IFSW 2020 Conference

Suzanne Dworak-Peck reflects on Gilchrist-James' life in inaugural lecture.
Gayle Gilchrist-James and Augusta McCabe
Gayle was the first Canadian President of IFSW, (1988-92) Courtesy Dick Ramsay

About Gayle Chilchrist-James

Gayle Gilchrist-James' commitment to social work locally, nationally and internationally was remarkable. She was the first Canadian President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) (1988-1992). She was with the Faculty of Social Work for 29 years, beginning in Edmonton in 1975.

This year, the online IFSW conference, July 15-19 , is presenting the inaugural Gayle Gilchrist James Lecture in honor of her outstanding social work career and leadership. Sue Dworak-Peck, a longtime colleague and a past President of IFSW, will present the lecture.

Portrait of Gayle Gilchrist-James

"Every social worker has the opportunity to matter and, hopefully, the capacity to do so.”

We hope you'll watch the remarkable tribute to Gayle linked below. We're also excited to announce that the Faculty will honour her legacy with an annual Gayle Gilchrist-James lecture as part of our popular Positive Disruption series.

She received the Pulse of Social Work Lifetime Achievement the year before she died, and to give you a glimpse, or a memory, of Gayle, here are some of her acceptance remarks.

My favourite Stratford Shakespearean actor, William Hutt (deceased June 2007, of leukemia), asked in his final public appearance, "how do you exit from a profession, and how do you exit from life?" This award helps me do both. I have had the enormous privilege of growing up as an educated woman in a democratic country, who fell into a profession that I loved... and love. It is a tribute to the science of quantum physics, and its principles of randomness and chaos theory, that I have held a variety of leadership positions in my professional life. This is not modesty on my part; it is truth.

I have learned that in this exquisitely connected world, it's never a question of 'critical mass.’ It's always about ‘critical connections.’ Thus, it is that every professional social worker in this room is connected to, and makes common cause with, every other professional social worker in countries as disparate as Armenia, China, Russia, Croatia, Japan, Israel, Kuwait, Peru, and Sudan. We know enough to know that our worldview works, that it has support from the best science as we know it currently, and that it is borne of a shared ethic, rather than our individual governments' public stances. Remember, each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry; our lives are woven together for a reason."



Read the text of Suzanne Dworak-Peck's inaugural Gayle James Lecture >>