RIP Diana Garland

Baptist Standard:

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 8.49.34 AMWACO—Diana Richmond Garland, founding dean of Baylor University’s school of social work that now bears her name, died September 21.

Garland, 65, trained generations of Christian social workers to express their faith through ministry to people Jesus called “the least” among society. She championed the skills and principles of social work within congregations and faith-based ministries. And she demonstrated the value of Christian ministry to the secular social work community.

Led the Carver School

Garland began her educational ministry in 1979, when she joined the faculty of theCarver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. She eventually led the Carver School as dean and directed its Center for Family Ministries.

Her career and ministry seemed to stumble in 1995, when the seminary’s young president, Al Mohler, declared, “The culture of social work and the culture of theological education are not congruent.”

He blocked tenure to social work faculty and vetoed her nomination to fill a professorship. When Garland contended the president’s actions made hiring faculty impossible and imperiled the Carver School’s accreditation, he fired her for insubordination.

Move to Baylor

But Baylor hired Garland to join its social work faculty in 1997. The university also hired her husband, David Garland, a New Testament professor, to join the faculty of itsTruett Theological Seminary.

Under Diana Garland’s leadership, Baylor expanded its social work program. And when the university created its School of Social Work in 2005, she became the founding dean.

David Garland became Truett Seminary’s fourth dean in 2007. He also served as Baylor’s interim president from 2008 to 2010 and was its interim provost during the 2014-15 academic year.

“I hired Diana Garland to help us move the Baylor undergraduate social work program to a full-service (offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees), nationally recognized school of social work,” recalled Preston Dyer, then director of Baylor’s social work division and now professor emeritus in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

From ideas to action

Garland succeeded Dyer as Baylor’s social work director and then became dean when the social work school opened. The school met its initial goals in 2013, when it admitted its first Ph.D. cohort, Dyer noted.

“I’ve known many people who had a new idea a minute, but few who had the ability to put those ideas into action,” he said. “Diana had so many good ideas that sometimes, I got a headache just hearing them. But she was one of the few who could take an idea and carry it to fulfillment.”

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