Dr. Sandra McGee, 1954-2018

Sandra McGee sitting by window with American flag
October 25, 2018 - 9:15am
Des Moines, IA

The School of Social Work in the University of Iowa Liberal Arts and Sciences College mourns the loss of Sandra L. McGee, PhD, LMSW, Assistant Clinical Professor and Field Administrator for the school’s Bachelor’s degree program in Des Moines.

"Dr. Sandra McGee has left a lasting impact on the social work profession that will continue for generations. Her commitment to training the next generation of social workers in Des Moines has been recognized by multiple organizations over the last year. Sandra was instrumental in addressing the needs of communities of color and ensuring a diverse social work workforce,” said Sara Sanders, MSW, PhD, and Professor and Director of the School of Social Work. “She will be deeply missed.”

Dr. McGee earned her MSW degree at the University of Iowa School of Social Work’ Des Moines center.  She earned her PhD from Iowa State University, focusing her dissertation on the educational needs of African-American women. She was hired in 2010 as the lead instructor and faculty liaison when the School established its BA in Social Work program in Des Moines.

A pioneering advocate for social justice, cultural equity in child welfare, and juvenile justice in local and statewide government, Dr. McGee developed a mentoring program to expand the number of social workers of color in the state of Iowa. She conducted research and taught classes across the curriculum, including Discrimination, Oppression and Diversity; Violence and Trauma; and Social Welfare Policy, and served as the Diversity Support & Resources Coordinator for the School of Social Work. She was an inaugural member of the Iowa Department of Human Services African American Consultation Review Team (AACRT), and served as Chair of the Diversity Committee for the National Association of Social Workers Iowa chapter, leading initiatives such as voter registration efforts, the first Providers of Color Fair in Central Iowa, and numerous workshops. In 2014, she organized Enhancing Relationships forums to promote meaningful, ongoing dialogue between law enforcement and African American communities. She was also a certified trainer in the NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute), an international leadership organization that provides training in diversity, equity, and inclusion in community organizations, K-12 schools, college and university campuses, corporations, and law enforcement.

In 2017, Dr. McGee helped develop and implement “Too Good to Lose,” a mentoring program in Polk County devoted to helping teenage girls who have been accused of crimes and have used drugs, but who are also victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking.

Dr. McGee served the social work and social justice community with tremendous insight, leadership, and foresight, throughout her career, and her efforts and impact have been frequently recognized with coveted awards. In recent years she was named the Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers Iowa Chapter (NASW) (2013); the James Derham Health Practitioner of the Year Award by the Iowa Juneteenth Observance Board (2013); an Outstanding Alumni Award from Des Moines Area Community College (2014); the Frankie Muse Freeman Social Action Award from Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Regional Division; the Director’s Community Service Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2017).

In September 2018, Dr. McGee was inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. The Iowa chapter of the NASW awarded McGee the organization’s Catherine G. Williams Lifetime Achievement Diversity Award in 2017, and in 2018 the NASW gave her their Lifetime Achievement Award for her career-long contributions to the field.

Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor and Distance Education Administrator Stephen Cummings, MSW, ACSW, LISW, worked closely with Dr. McGee for seven years. “The loss of Professor McGee cannot be measured,” Cummings said.

“Her devotion to students, and to the Des Moines community, is deeply significant. Sandra was loved, but she was also highly respected as a professor and leader. She earned the respect and admiration of her students through her knowledge, wisdom, and unending commitment to the social work profession. There will never be another Sandra.”

The family has shared details about her memorial services here: http://www.hamiltonsfuneralhome.com/services/services_detail.aspx?rid=37864

*Please submit your remembrances of Sandra to jen-knights@uiowa.edu to be added to this memorial page.