Past Spafford Endowed Chairs


Helen V. Graber, PhD - 2001-2009

Dr. Graber initiated a “community conversation” through a series of events, including the Belle S. Spafford Birthday Recognition Event and the Spafford Roundtables. Valuable information from the 1996 Centennial Summit for Utah Women was used as a foundation to determine current needs and priorities. Over 400 different people participated in this process, which resulted in the announcement, in August 2002, of three areas of focus for Dr. Graber’s tenure: education, leaders, and families, with specific attention to women’s income and child care.

Dr. Graber earned her PhD in public policy analysis and administration from St. Louis University and her master’s degree in social administration from Case Western Reserve University. She was a member of the Utah Women’s Forum, the International Women’s Forum, the Utah Women’s Alliance for Building Community, and was the treasurer of the Utah Commission for Women and Families. She also served on the board of Voices for Utah Children. She firmly believed that these and her other community activities mirrored the many ways Belle Spafford worked with others to achieve better lives for women, their families, and their communities.


Ruth A. Brandwein, PhD - 1994-1996

Dr. Brandwein held the Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair for two years. Her area of interest and research while at the College of Social Work was domestic violence, with a special focus on Utah. Previously, Dr. Brandwein served as dean of the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s School of Social Welfare and spent four years as Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. She was also the second vice president of the National Association of Social Workers.

Dr. Brandwein earned her PhD from Brandeis University’s Florence Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare, and an MSW from the University of Washington School of Social Work. She was named the first Distinguished Alumna by the University of Washington School of Social Work.


Marie Cornwall, PhD - 1993-1994

Dr. Cornwall spent her year as the Spafford Chair examining the status of women in Utah by using census data, available research, and vital statistics. She used this information to compare the status of women throughout Utah’s 100 years of statehood. Her findings were published in a book and were featured in a three-part documentary aired on KUED in 1995. The documentary examined three intergenerational families of different ethnic groups to explore the changes in women’s status over time.

Dr. Cornwall earned her PhD in sociology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree from Brigham Young University. While the Spafford Chair, Dr. Cornwall directed the Women’s Research Institute at BYU and served on the faculty of the institution’s Department of Sociology.


Rosemary C. Sarri, PhD - 1992-1993

Dr. Sarri spent one academic year as the Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair. During that time, she presented three lectures, which were free, open to the public, and well-attended: “Comparative Perspectives on Strategies for Empowerment of Women” (October, 1992); “Gender Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Change” (February, 1993); and “Women, Men, and Children: An Agenda for Their Well-Being in the 1990s” (May, 1993). In addition to the lectures, Dr. Sarri taught seminars on “Women, Work, and Careers” and “Women and Leadership: Management Roles in the Human Services.”

She earned her PhD in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan, later joining their social work faculty and working with their Institute for Social Research. Her career and research focused on gender studies, single parent families with children, social welfare administration, social policy and social change, and juvenile and criminal justice. Dr. Sarri authored numerous books and journal articles on these subjects.


Nancy Amidei, MSW - 1990-1992

Ms. Amidei, a national social issues and women in poverty policy expert, was selected to be the third Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair. As the Spafford Chair, she focused on the contributions that low-income women make to society. Ms. Amidei produced a year-end report: “Feminization of Poverty – How Does it Look in Utah?” The project updated facts and figures reported 10 years prior in a national study on the same subject, but with a focus on current Utah families. Ms. Amidei also taught classes and advocated for poor women and their families in talks to community groups, university forums, social service providers, and others. She presented the College of Social Work’s annual Beeley Lecture, speaking on “Advocacy in Human Services.”

Ms. Amidei earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and received their Distinguished Alumni Award in 1984. She was a former National Public Radio social policy commentator and a correspondent for Commonweal magazine and four major newspapers. At the time of her appointment, Ms. Amidei was a visiting professor at Washington University School of Social Work and on the faculty at Catholic University School of Social Services in Washington, D.C.


L. Diane Bernard, PhD - 1988-1990

As the second Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair, Dr. Bernard brought an interest in “franchising” women, particularly those in higher education, to become more active and effective in key positions of government and public office. During her tenure as the Spafford Chair, she sponsored a two-day research conference: “A Woman’s Conference: Developing an Agenda for the ’90s in Utah.” In the spring of 1990, she chaired the Third Annual Belle S. Spafford Conference: “Women Entering the Workforce.”

Dr. Bernard was a visiting professor from Southern University in New Orleans. She had served as dean of the School of Social Work at Florida State University and had been a faculty member at Smith College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Bryn Mawr College, and Tulane University.



Naomi R. Gottlieb, DSW - 1987-1988

Dr. Gottlieb was selected as the first Belle S. Spafford Endowed Chair. As the Spafford Chair, she organized a working conference on health and economic issues of older women, which was held in Salt Lake City in 1988. She also prepared a monograph as the conference report: “The Conference on Older Women: The State of Knowledge and the Need for Action.”

Dr. Gottlieb earned her Doctor of Social Work degree from the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkley. At the time of her appointment, she was director of the Project on Women and Mental Health and a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work.