Current Spafford Endowed Chair

Dr. Marilyn Luptak and Dr. Frances Wilby will serve consecutive 18-month terms as the Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair during the colleagues’ three-year, joint research project.

Marilyn Luptak, PhD, MSW - 2011-2012

Dr. Luptak is an assistant professor in the University of Utah College of Social Work, where she also directs the Social Work in Aging emphasis for master’s students. Additionally, she is a J. A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar, which has enabled her to advocate for older adults at the state and national levels.

Dr. Luptak earned both her PhD in social work with a minor in gerontology and her Master of Social Work degrees from the University of Minnesota. While pursuing her PhD, she was a J. A. Hartford Doctoral Fellow in Geriatric Social Work. Her work has been recognized with the University of Utah College of Social Work’s Mary Shields McPhee Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching (2010), the National Institute on Aging 4th Annual Research Training on Aging and Social Work Award (2007-2008), and the National Institute on Aging Pre-doctoral Traineeship Award (2000-2003), among others.

“My interest in serving older adults and their families began when I was a child growing up on a farm surrounded by neighbors who remained on their homesteads well into old age—often until death,” said Dr. Luptak. “My personal interest led to a professional commitment to improve the lives of older persons and their families.”

Frances Wilby, PhD, MSW - 2013-2014

Dr. Frances Wilby is also a member of the University of Utah College of Social Work faculty and is the executive director of the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging. She received a J. A. Hartford Doctoral Fellows grant to support her dissertation work while pursuing her PhD.

Dr. Wilby earned her PhD in social work, a Master of Social Work degree, and a master’s degree in recreation and leisure from the University of Utah. Additionally, she earned a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Utah’s Center on Aging. While a student at the University of Utah, Dr. Wilby’s scholarship and potential was recognized with the William McPhee Scholarship for PhD students who demonstrate “outstanding promise in the area of social work research” (2004), and the Edward Okazaki Memorial Award for “achievement and promise in gerontology” (2004), among other honors.

“As a young girl, my first job was delivering newspapers to the residents of a retirement home where my father was the administrator,” recalls Dr. Wilby. “As an adult, I began my career in social services working in adult day centers, providing respite care to families of loved ones with various disabilities. These services were vital to the family in order for family members to continue working and caring for their loved ones at home, thus avoiding institutionalization.”


Dr. Luptak and Dr. Wilby’s commitment to helping others is evident in their teaching and mentoring of social work students, their service on the Salt Lake County Council for the Aging and the Utah Commission on Aging, and their own research. Both Dr. Luptak and Dr. Wilby are currently working on several research projects that examine various aspects of care for older adults in community and institutional settings. “As with most research in aging,” said Dr. Wilby, “the majority of study participants are women.”

“Compared to older men,” explained Dr. Luptak, “older women are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be widowed, and more likely to live with chronic health conditions and disabilities. Women are also typically the primary caregivers for aging family members, but since most women now work full-time, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for them to care for their older relatives.”