By Bob Allen
Baylor University’s board of regents has voted to rename the university’s School of Social Work in honor of the school’s first dean, Diana Garland, who is stepping down June 1 due to illness.
The Diana R. Garland School of Social Work name was announced April 24 during the school’s annual “family dinner” celebrating both the school’s 10-year anniversary and Garland’s service.
“Diana Garland has a passion for social work delivered in the context of a caring, Christian community,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor board of regents. “Because of her dedication to faith-infused social work, we see Baylor students and alumni making significant, meaningful and lasting contributions in communities around the state of Texas, throughout the nation and across the globe.”
Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr called renaming the school a “fitting tribute” to Garland.
“Dr. Garland has led the School of Social Work with distinction and honor,” Starr said. “Under her inspired servant-leadership, the school has grown from a fledgling department to an independent, nationally recognized institution increasingly known for its research excellence and unwavering Christian commitment.”
“Dean Garland’s nearly 20 years of dedicated service to Baylor students, faculty and staff, as well as to the broader Waco community, has changed lives, healed families, strengthened congregations and expanded the frontiers of knowledge,” Starr said. “We are deeply thankful for Dr. Garland’s good and faithful work.”
Before joining the Baylor faculty in 1997, Garland was fired as dean of the Carver School of Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after publicly criticizing the seminary’s president in 1995.
After Garland recommended a professor vetted for qualification using the seminary’s policy manual and Abstract of Principles, seminary President Albert Mohler vetoed the nomination, saying he had additional criteria beyond written policies including that faculty members must not believe that women can serve as church pastors.
Garland told a student forum Mohler’s added criteria made it impossible for her to hire qualified professors and jeopardized accreditation by the Council of Social Work Education. Mohler fired her for insubordination, claiming she pre-empted “official administrative structures” and released “private and privileged information” in addressing the student forum.
Garland’s dismissal sparked alumni protests and a student sit-in outside Mohler’s office on campus and brought a new low to faculty morale. The seminary’s board of trustees backed the new president they had elected two years before, giving him a greater role in faculty hiring and adopting a policy requiring faculty to “support and relate constructively to the institution, its policies and administration.”
Both Garland and her husband, David, a New Testament professor, were part of an exodus of Southern Seminary faculty making room for younger and more conservative — and over time more Calvinist — professors at the Southern Baptist Convention school.
David Garland joined Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary as professor of Christian scriptures before being promoted to dean in 2007 and serving as Baylor’s acting president from 2008 to 2010.
Diana Garland became founding dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work, which opened officially in 2005. During her tenure the faculty grew from five full-time professors to 20. She has raised more than $7.4 million in research and program grants, and during her tenure the School of Social Work has established an endowment of $14.5 million.
Garland described herself as “speechless in gratitude and awe” that the school was being named in her honor.
“All this School has accomplished has been because God has bound us together, magnifying our strengths and shining through our weaknesses,” she said.
“We have achieved far more than any group of people could have humanly done alone, and most certainly not due to any one person’s leadership,” Garland said. “I hope that everyone who associates my name with this school will laugh, as I do, that God has once again chosen a flawed but willing character through whom to work.”
The Carver School of Church Social Work, the only seminary-based accredited social work school in America, was only a decade old when Garland was fired, but it inherited the legacy of the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School, established in 1907 and renamed the Carver School of Missions and Social Work in 1953.
In 1997 Southern Seminary sold the Carver name to Campbellsville University, after Mohler determined “the culture of social work and the culture of theological education are not congruent.”