NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University announced its first-ever endowed professorship for faculty in the Department of Social Work. The endowment, which with matching funds totals $100,000, was established through a gift to honor the memory of a woman who was a pioneer in the field of social work.
“The Louise Mathilde Bradford Professorship in Social Work will be used for research, travel and student projects,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio. “This is a permanent endowment and will always be here in Ms. Bradford’s name. She was passionate about social work and passionate about helping people.”
The professorship was arranged by Lynda Thiels, who worked with Bradford for more than 40 years. The two were much more than colleagues; Bradford was a close friend, a mentor and confident to Thiels and her family.
“My family became her family. We shared holidays and she was essentially a grandmother to my children Jeff and Kristin and a great-grandmother to their children,” Thiels said. “Her life was devoted to social work and the development of social workers. To do this in honor of her, which is what she worked for her whole life, and know that she endowed the first professorship here would make her very happy.”
Bradford was a pioneer in human services and an expert on child welfare in central Louisiana, the state and the nation in a career that spanned more than 60 years. Social work was her life and passion, Thiels said. Bradford was born in Rapides Parish and earned an undergraduate degree at Louisiana and completed post graduate work at LSU, Tulane and the Wharton School of Business. She earned a graduate degree in social work at Columbia University in New York. She opted not to have a family of her own, but dedicated her life to the lives of children and families in crisis who needed support to keep them together. She retired from the Office of Community Services after 30 years where she was the regional director, retired from St. Mary’s Training School where she was director of social services after 22 years and then worked for eight years with Volunteers of America where she was the foster parent training director. She also taught social work classes at Louisiana College in Pineville for 10 years.
Bradford was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s White House Council on Children, which was instrumental in establishing daycare standards for the U.S. She wrote the daycare standards for Louisiana and as the Region 6 child welfare consultant operated the state daycare facility in Natchitoches which piloted programs and was a training ground for young social workers entering the field of child welfare.
She was the recipient of numerous local, state and national awards for her contributions to the field of social work. Among those was her work with the National Association of Social Workers in establishing standards for professional social workers. One of her greatest joys was watching the professional development of her students as she saw them become practicing social workers, administrators or professors.
Bradford was a member of First United Methodist Church of Alexandria, Lions Club, DAR, 20th Century Book Club and many other community, state and national organizations, including a charter member of the National Association of Social Workers. She was also an intrepid traveler and traveled the world to attend international social work conferences in China, Russia and the U.K. to study social work and adoption practices. She was instrumental in establishing adoption standards for domestic and overseas adoptions. Of all the accolades, she received, Thiels said Bradford was most proud of the work she did with adoptive children and families and loved to see joy on children’s faces.
“Social work was very, very important to her,” Thiels said. “Her strength was in establishing social work programs where they had never been before. Laws changed and ways of doing things changed. She provided strong social work services and she loved what she did.”
Thiels said that, in addition to mentoring young professionals and encouraging her daughter Kristin Thiels Evans to major in social work at NSU, Bradford had discussed ways she might financially contribute to NSU’s social work program. She passed away March 20, 2014, at age 88. In settling Bradfords’ affairs, Thiels followed Bradford’s wishes and established the professorship in her name.
“She could tell we were making an impact through our bachelor’s program in social work,” Maggio said. “What this means for our program is pioneering and groundbreaking and will take us to that next level.”
“When I read about her career and realized she was truly a pioneer in social work, I knew the importance of Ms. Bradford’s lasting legacy. Working to establish this professorship in her name is an honor,” said Drake Owens, executive director of the NSU Foundation.
For information on NSU’s Department of Social Work, visit nsula.edu/socialworkhome. For information on ways to initiate or contribute to a scholarship or professorship to honor an individual, visit northwesternstatealumni.com.