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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

Degenhart Endowed Scholarship is an investment in human potential

Degenhart

Much has changed in social work, and at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, since Joyce (Carpenter) Degenhart was a student there in 1958–60. Joyce, MSW '60, recalls hanging out at the Stadium Inn after classes and listening to Judy Collins play, live. Long before there was a Craig Hall, classes were held in Templin Hall, a former women's dormitory near campus.

Most students at that time were attending GSSW on a stipend from their home states, including Joyce, whose tuition and living expenses were paid by the Department of Children and Family Services in her home state of Wisconsin. She was a social worker for the state, which even provided her with a summer job and transportation home. In exchange, she was to return to Wisconsin and put her graduate degree back to work.

"I finished the University of Denver with no debt. It cost me nothing but my energy," Degenhart says. But such generous stipends are bygone, and the expense of graduate school today can be insurmountable for many students. That's why Joyce and her late husband, John, established the Dr. Joyce S. and John S. Degenhart Endowed Scholarship Fund for graduate study at GSSW.

Joyce entered social work because "I wanted to save the world, and I didn't want to be a teacher." She'd originally planned to go into law, but in the 1950s there was no career path for women in law. So, she enrolled as a social work student at the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1957 after just three years. In her first social work job—in Stevens Point, Wisconsin—she met Patricia "Pat" Costello, MSW '53, who was Joyce's first social work supervisor. It was Costello who encouraged Joyce to consider GSSW.

She visited and fell in love with the school, which is where she also met and fell in love with John, MSW '60, a classmate attending on a state stipend from Montana. The couple married in 1961 and returned to Wisconsin, where John spent his career as a school social worker.

"Because my stipend was from the Department of Children and Family Services, I was slotted into that," Joyce recalls. "I would have rather gone into clinical or school social work, but where you start has nothing to do with where you end up in your career."

Where she ended up was with a happy marriage that spanned 53 years, a PhD in psychology and a private practice group comprising eight clinics serving 300,000 people over several counties in Wisconsin. Joyce also served as president of the Wisconsin School Social Workers and on the board for Milwaukee's public TV station.

In 2014, GSSW honored Joyce and John—who passed away in 2013—with a Dean's Award. At the time, Joyce said, she hoped the scholarship would support future social workers as they "continue to uphold the high ideal she and John shared for bringing out the best of human potential."

Although many years have passed since Joyce retired from clinical psychology, former clients still recognize her and stop to thank her for helping them, once upon a time.

"If you stay in the same community where you practice, people will remind you of the impact you had on their life," Joyce says. "That is really fulfilling."

Now, future generations of GSSW students will have reason to say thanks, too.

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