Dr. Steven Huberman, the current and founding dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, was recently presented with the “Top Leadership Award,” the highest social work honor in New York City, by the National Association of Social Workers, New York City chapter.
The award recognizes professionals who demonstrate exemplary leadership qualities and unique commitment to the improvement of social and human conditions.
In presenting the award to Dr. Huberman at the NASW-NYC’s Annual Leadership dinner, Dr. Robert Schachter, the organization’s former executive director, extolled the dean’s qualities that ensure a strong foundation for the school, which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary.
“Dr. Huberman is not only a leading academian, but also a talented and experienced community organizer—someone who could build a new school that has become known for its excellence and unparalleled diversity as well as its community engagement,” said Dr. Schachter.
Dr. Huberman’s “engagement of professional leaders” and his organizing skills played a pivotal role in the school’s positive reception from the city’s social work community, Dr. Schachter noted.
Describing the dean’s humanity and interpersonal skills as his greatest assets, which benefit “the faculty, students and all the community stakeholders he has drawn in,” Dr. Schachter said he “stands with the very best education leaders we have had in New York.”
Current NASW-NYC chapter President Candida Brooks-Harrison offered her congratulations as well: “You clearly represent the best of the best in our profession.”
Visibly moved by the honor and surrounded by family members, Touro colleagues and personal friends, Dr. Huberman, of Teaneck, recounted for the packed ballroom a difficult childhood that led him to social work. He barely knew his father, and his mother suffered from mental illness, but said their plight was no reason not to “always wear an ironed shirt.”
He said the poverty that enveloped his family made a 25-cent hot lunch in high school beyond his reach. He didn’t go hungry, however, thanks to the school’s guidance counselor, Judith Shusterman, who gave him quarters for lunch and kindness that transformed his life. She inspired Dr. Huberman to join a profession where he, too, could make a difference in people’s lives.
Dean Huberman has enjoyed a distinguished career in social work training, management of complex non-profit organizations and research. He received his Ph.D. from the School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare at Brandeis University, and prior to joining Touro was a professor of social work at Boston University and UCLA. He also served as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He enjoys being in the classroom and has served as president of the New York State Association of Deans of Schools of Social Work.
At Touro, Dr. Huberman said he takes great pride in the school’s accomplishments and diversity. Students of all backgrounds “can stand as one under the chuppah,” the canopy associated with traditional Jewish weddings, and with the support of Touro College and University President Dr. Alan Kadish, the school pays each student’s NASW membership dues so they can benefit from being part of a professional association. This enables students to become part of a host of committees and task forces, engaging with leaders in the field and working on important social work issues they might not otherwise have access to early in their careers.
Citing Martin Luther King Jr. as one of his enduring role models, Dr. Huberman said that each year he journeys to the late civil rights leader’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where he reflects on Dr. King’s noble leadership.
Inspired by Dr. King’s famous words, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” Dr. Huberman exhorted the large gathering of social workers, “Let’s run, let’s walk for social justice.”
And in a nod to his own mother’s advice, he lightly added, “And always wear an ironed shirt.”
By JLNJ Staff