April 24, 2019

The School of Social Work’s Margaret L. Spearmon, a senior lecturer and the School’s chief officer of community engagement and diversity, has been named a 2019 recipient of the UW David Thorud Leadership Award. This marks the first time that any member of the School has been selected for this prestigious award. 

The award is presented to one UW faculty and one staff recipient each year based on leadership qualities that include demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusionary leadership, excellent teamwork and listening skills, a track record of creativity and innovation, and extraordinary capacity to create practical solutions to complex problems.

In her message to Dr. Spearmon, UW Vice President Mindy Kornberg noted that a record-setting number of faculty were nominated for the award this year, and that she was the award committee’s unanimous choice among an extraordinary field of candidates.

Spearmon, who currently leads the School’s diversity planning efforts, is a revered organizer, administrator, scholar and mentor who has held nearly every leadership position at the School of Social Work over two and a half decades. 

Says Dean Eddie Uehara, “Margaret’s lengthy history of leadership—unprecedented in the School’s history—speaks to the enduring high regard in which she is held by staff, students, faculty and deans, past and present.” 

Spearmon was a key figure in establishing Intergroup Dialogues among different identity groups at the School and across campus, and she has been deeply involved in the UW Race and Equity Initiative and the Othello-UW Commons, a learning and collaboration space for faculty, staff, students and community partners in Southeast Seattle.

“This acknowledgement is such an honor,” says Spearmon. “I’ve been with the University since 1992 and witnessed dramatic shifts in the hard work of inclusive excellence that we embrace. For me, this award signifies that this effort is both seen and held in high esteem. I feel blessed.” 

Spearmon’s reputation for powerful engagement and impact extends beyond the UW campus. Most recently, while serving as the School’s associate dean of professional development and community partnerships, Spearmon was instrumental in the creation of Communities in Action, a five-year flagship collaboration with key community leaders and more than 200 human service agencies in Seattle to provide prevention-based human services to children, youth and families.

Dr. Ed Taylor, UW’s Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, calls Spearmon “among the truly quality leaders who have left an indelible impression on the School of Social Work and on the University overall.” 

School faculty member Stan J. de Mello describes her as “a uniquely significant and successful educator and scholar while being an outstanding champion of social justice and equity at the school and in the community.” He adds: “She is loved and greatly admired.”

Former dean and professor emeritus Dr. Dorothy Van Soest says, “Dr. Margaret Spearmon’s commitment to making the School of Social Work and the University of Washington an inclusive and accountable force in our state, our nation and the world is—hands down—unparalleled.”

In addition to her teaching and administrative roles, Spearmon is co-founder of Inclusive Engagements LLC, a consultancy that provides training and coaching in managing a diverse workforce, building multicultural learning environments, team and community building, intergroup dialogue, program management, community planning and strategic planning. She is also an ordained minister.

Spearmon received her MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and her PhD from the University of Washington. She has held teaching and administrative positions at Case Western Reserve University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Temple University in addition to the University of Washington. 

Thorud Leadership Award recipients are honored at the University’s Annual Awards of Excellence ceremony on June 13 in Meany Hall. Each receives $2,500.

Related Article

Margaret Spearmon, longtime School of Social Work leader, to retire