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Updated 6:30 PM June 5, 2007




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  The Michigan Difference Campaign
Research center gets new name to recognize
School of Social Work gift

U-M alumni Vivian and Dr. James Curtis have given $1 million to the School of Social Work (SSW) to fund an endowment to support master's and doctoral students.

To recognize the gift the school's research center has been renamed the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis School of Social Work Research and Training Center. The gift is part of the University's $2.5 billion The Michigan Difference fund-raising campaign.

"The generosity shown by the Curtises in endowing a student scholarship fund here at the School of Social Work will impact not only the lives of the student recipients but also the communities, organizations, and people that these students will eventually go on to serve," Dean Paula Allen-Meares says. "We are deeply appreciative of this most meaningful and heartfelt gift."

The goal of the center—which builds on the experience of the school's Research Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health—is to foster interdisciplinary, externally funded research in mental health, substance abuse and health that impact vulnerable populations.

Research on the comorbidity of these problems will be a priority since the service needs of people affected by multiple problems are complex and challenging, Allen-Meares says.

The center, which began in 1995 through a federal grant and is located in the building's lower level, will be directed by social work professors Matthew Howard and Jorge Delva.

The Curtises met in 1948 at Wayne County General Hospital, where Vivian conducted field placement in psychological social work and James was in the first year of his psychiatric residency training. They married the following year and moved to New York City, where he pursued his career in academic psychiatry and she began her social work career.

Before retiring in 1995, Vivian Curtis held faculty appointments at many of New York's major universities. She also spent nearly 46 years at Kings County Hospital, 20 of which as the director of the social work department. James Curtis retired in 2000 after nearly 20 years as director of psychiatry at Harlem Hospital. An emeritus clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, he has written two books printed by U-M Press: "Blacks, Medical Schools, and Society" (1971) and "Affirmative Action in Medicine: Improving Health Care for Everyone" (2003).

The Curtises have been generous supporters of the U-M Museum of Art. The James L. and Vivian A. Curtis Gallery of African and African American Art, launched in 1998, was made possible by their gift.

The current gift recognizes her career and affection for the school, James Curtis says, noting that Vivian Curtis now suffers from Alzheimer's disease. She graduated from the University in 1948 with a master's in social work.

"Vivian's great pride in the U-M SSW, from which she graduated, is what convinced me that this would be an appropriate memorial to her career," says Curtis, a 1946 graduate of the U-M Medical School. "The U-M School of Social Work's academic mission and commitment to excellence were also very important in my decision making."

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