David Woodsworth (1918 – 2010)

David Woodsworth. /Photo: Martin C. Barry
David Woodsworth. /Photo: Martin C. Barry, Senior Times

By Neale McDevitt

The McGill community, particularly members of the School of Social Work (SSW), is mourning the passing of David Woosdworth, Emeritus professor of Social Work and the former director of the SSW. Woodsworth died peacefully at St. Mary’s Hospital, on Aug. 13, at the age of 91.

One of Canada’s pre-eminent social-policy thinkers of his time, Woodsworth was also a highly respected academic who continued to publish articles in his 80s. As director of the SSW from 1966-76, Woodsworth was at the helm during what current director Wendy Thomson calls “a pioneering time” when the School introduced one of the first bachelor of social work programs in the nation.

But Thomson believes Woodsworth’s numerous academic and administrative accomplishments are overshadowed by his unwavering compassion for others. “He was a gentle and thoughtful man,” said Thomson, who studied under Woodsworth in the 1970s. “People use the term frequently, but David was much loved. He was an inspiration to many of us.”

In 1986, soon after retiring from McGill, Woodsworth helped co-found the N.D.G. Senior Citizens Council where he began advocating for the rights of the elderly. The move was hardly surprising considering his family’s tradition of social consciousness. Woodsworth’s grandfather was a Methodist missionary, his father was a Methodist minister and his uncle, J.S. Woodsworth, was the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (which later became the New Democratic Party).

“I saw him only a few days before he died,” said Thomson. “And while most people get understandably preoccupied with themselves at that stage, all David wanted to talk about was the good work being done. He was an extraordinary man.”