Friends, family, colleagues, and past students gathered in Wilson Hall’s Wendy Patrick on September 18th, 2019 to celebrate Dr. Sydney Duder’s long and illustrious career as a professor and supervisor at the McGill School of Social Work. Duder, who received her BSW, MSW, and PhD from McGill, will be retiring this coming semester after 45 years of teaching with the school.
The reception held in Duder’s honour was both elegant and genial. Speeches were delivered from both Duder’s loved ones and professional colleagues, all of whom spoke warmly of her involvement with the school, her dedication to students, as well as her enterprising and industrious nature. Present on each of the tables where guests were seated was a questionnaire with trivia questions about Duder, such as “What is Sydney’s secret to staying young at heart?” (The answer: Marry a younger man).
Now 98-years-old, Duder began teaching at the School of Social Work in 1972. Rather than pursuing field research of her own, Duder has dedicated much of her career to working with colleagues on many colleagues on many research projects – usually her contributions involved research design and data analysis. She considers herself a “problem solver,” and her philosophy where social work is concerned is deeply rooted in her firm belief in the value of program evaluation and cost-benefit analysis.
“Nothing I do is typical in this field,” said Duder in an interview, “I can’t do the things that most social workers do, I don’t have the interpersonal skills!”
Upon hearing the countless testimonies from past students and colleagues about Duder’s abilities as an educator, however, it is tempting to dismiss such a statement as simply humility. Throughout the course of her career, Duder has supervised countless MSW theses – and in recent years, MSW Independent Study Projects, a degree requirement for Non-Thesis Masters’ students. During the ceremony, it was announced that a new prize, entitled, The Sydney Duder ISP Prize, was being introduced in honour of Duder’s work. The prize would be presented to a student whose projects had demonstrated excellence and dedication in program evaluation and quantitative research.
To hear Duder discuss her work is an affirming experience. She is an outspoken advocate for prevention-based research, believing in finding the root of the problems she sees in communities afflicted with social issues. Her approach to the field of Social Work is methodical, meticulous and endlessly optimistic.
“I’m never disillusioned,” said Duder, “The world is getting better. We’re getting better at solving problems. We live longer, we’re healthier, there’s less poverty. Things are improving.”
Though officially retiring, Duder hopes to remain in contact with the School of Social Work, promising to visit her friends at Wilson Hall and continue to inspire the next generation of researchers. Her advice to young people in the field of Social Work was simple and practical:
“Just keep trying, I suppose. And be sensible.”