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A Lifetime of Service

Jim Stone’s Falk College Legacy: Service to the Advisory Board and Legislative Policy Day
Three people are standing together at a podium

During this year’s Legislative Policy Day, School of Social Work Professor Eric Kingson (left) and Professor and Chair Carrie Smith presented Jim Stone with an award for his dedication to the annual event at the Onondaga County Courthouse in downtown Syracuse.
When Jim Stone started his freshman year at Syracuse University in 1958, he had every intention of following in his parents’ footsteps and becoming a teacher.

In his junior year in the University’s School of Education, Stone was required to spend one afternoon a week working with children at a local school or agency and he selected the Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center. That decision started Stone on a career path that led to a long and distinguished career as a social worker and as a member of the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics Advisory Board.

“I really liked that work (at Hillbrook) and, long story short, I decided I wasn’t going to be a teacher, I was going to be a social worker, much to the dismay of my mom and dad, who were both teachers,” says Stone, a Syracuse native who graduated from Syracuse in 1962 and received his master of social work (M.S.W.) degree in 1964.

Stone’s first field placement as a social work student was with the New York State Division of Youth. His early career was in the juvenile justice system as Onondaga County Director of Detention Care and with the state Division of Youth in positions ranging from director of community-based programs to superintendent of the largest training school in the state.

He then moved into the mental health field as Chief of Service in two New York State Office of Mental Health psychiatric centers, and as director of community services for Livingston and Monroe counties. He served as New York State’s Commissioner of Mental Health from 1995-2003 and entered the federal Senior Executive Service until his retirement in 2009.

“The marvelous thing about social work personally is that it gave me fabulous opportunities,” says Stone, who now lives in Albany. “I never went to the School of Social Work thinking I’d be the state Commissioner of Mental Health or working for the federal government as director of behavioral health for Indian Health Service.”

But even before he started his social work career, Stone displayed the traits that made him such a respected social worker. After earning his M.S.W., he spent one year as a teacher in the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District near Syracuse because he had initially received scholarship money toward becoming a teacher.

“Nothing bad would have happened if I didn’t accept (the teaching position), but my conscious would have bothered me,” Stone says. “So, I taught for a year, and I had the good fortune of meeting a fellow teacher, Joan Borzelle (G ’67), and we got married and had three wonderful boys.”

Legislative Policy Day

At Falk College, Stone recently retired after more than 30 years as a volunteer with the School of Social Work Board of Visitors, which evolved into the Falk College Advisory Board when the School of Social Work and other departments joined to create Falk College. On April 12, Stone was bestowed with the title of Emeritus Board Member, and Falk Assistant Dean for Advancement Megan Myers says Stone will continue to be invited to Syracuse University and Falk College events and remain available as a sounding board for other board members.

“There is no one more deserving of emeritus board member recognition than Jim Stone, and we are forever grateful for his service,” Myers says. “For more than 30 years–even before Falk College was created–Jim has provided leadership and mentorship to our social work students and faculty. His philanthropy and dedication to educating future social work students can be seen every year with the James L. Stone Legislative Policy Day.”

Named after Stone because of his personal and financial support of the event, Legislative Policy Day is an important component of the Social Work curriculum. Held annually at the Onondaga County Courthouse in downtown Syracuse, the event provides Social Work undergraduate and graduate students a unique opportunity to witness the real-life involvement of community leaders, citizen organizations, politicians, and social workers who are actively involved in shaping policies that address an important social issue.

This year marked the 25th Legislative Policy Day and the April 12 event focused on “Social Security Across Generations.” That topic was a fitting tribute to retiring School of Social Work Professor and national Social Security expert Eric Kingson, who has worked closely with Stone over the years to build Legislative Policy Day into a signature event for the School of Social Work.

“I’ve always been interested in the Legislature and the legislative process, but I had to teach myself about it and Legislative Day gives students a good perspective on what’s out there and how to make connections,” Stone says. “I feel really good about it because the students are getting something out of it. The speakers get something out it, too, because they’re getting a perspective from the students’ point of view.”

This year’s event started with James T. Rowley, Chair of the Onondaga County Legislature, describing how the Legislature works and how citizens, community leaders, social workers, and other professionals can effectively address county issues and related legislation. That introduction was followed by panel discussions with guest speakers focusing on various perspectives related to social work, including the strategies and efforts of national and local organizations and advocates who work to protect and expand Social Security.

“Social workers have a professional responsibility to advance social justice by working to address systemic inequities and strengthen health and human services that individuals, families, and communities rely upon,” Kingson says. “Through their practice, they have direct experience with numerous social concerns This event is designed to encourage them to use that knowledge and reinforce how important it is for social workers to be engaged in policy and community change.”

A person talks with media crew in a courtroom

Social Work Professor Eric Kingson, shown here talking the media at this year’s Legislative Policy Day, has worked closely with Jim Stone to build Legislative Policy Day into a signature event for the School of Social Work.

Providing Support

During this year’s Legislative Policy Day, Kingson and School of Social Work Professor and Chair Carrie Smith presented Stone with an award for his dedication to the annual event. They thanked him for his contributions and, as Kingson said, “we’re all here because of Jim.”

“I’m grateful that over the years, Jim has become a friend,” Kingson says. “He has been very positive and helpful, including making contacts (with guest speakers) for us on some of the legislative days that focused very closely on his areas of knowledge, including mental health.”

In addition to Stone, Kingson and Smith presented an award to the members of the County Legislature and their staff for their support over the years.

“Over the 25 years we’ve held Legislative Policy Day conferences at the County Legislature, we’ve never been charged for use of the county’s historic Legislative Chambers and members and staff have always been very welcoming,” Kingson says. “Each chair of the Legislature has been introduced and presented to the students. It’s a perfect opportunity to educate students about how citizens, advocates, politicians, and other professionals engage in policy and community change..”

As they head into their respective retirements, Stone and Kingson will remain connected to the School of Social Work and committed to help with future Legislative Policy Days as the event grows and evolves.

Most of all, Stone and Kingson remain optimistic about the future of the social work profession and they’re confident that the students who have attended Legislative Policy Day over the years will continue working to creating social and economic justice in a diverse and rapidly changing world.

“There’s only one direction for it to go, and it is going in that direction,” Stone says. “It has to be there for people. These are particularly difficult times, it seems to me, and people need a lot of support and social work is a profession that can provide that kind of support.”

U.S. News and World Report has ranked the Syracuse University School of Social Work among the “Best Schools of Social Work” in the country.