Mel Dorrough Robinson ‘52 arrived on campus at Alabama College in the late 1940’s and soon found herself in the College’s innovative social work program; one of the nations first programs of its kind and the state’s only training program for most of the early 20th century.
Under Ms. Jeannette Niven’s leadership, Robinson and fellow students were placed in internships across the metro Birmingham area. Robinson recalled difficult experiences for a student taking on those duties, including notifying families of injuries and one death of a fallen Korean War soldier. “I almost quit social work on that day,” she recalled. “That visit still haunts me to this day, but I returned with a more adult way of looking at situations. I grew up fast.”
“Mel spent many years in practice with a variety of vulnerable populations, “ Dr. Jason Newell, Director of Social Work said. “Her practice history includes service to families in welfare, school social work, juvenile probation, assistance for aging populations and adoptions.”
Now retired, Robinson is one of many dedicated Alabama College and UM social work alumni. Loyally supporting the program through both her time and financial resources, Robinson is a former member of the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors, is in the Red Brick Society and has an endowed scholarship in her own name for social work students pursuing careers in health care. She has also been instrumental in establishing and endowing two individual social work scholarships honoring Ms. Niven and Anne and Harrison Blair.
Her contributions have allowed the Social Work department and its students access to technology, videos, library holdings and other items that the program otherwise could not have afforded. Today, Montevallo’s social work program has a strong impact across Shelby County and metropolitan Birmingham and Hoover, but graduates work all over Alabama and throughout the country.
“Mel has always been very supportive of the social work faculty,” Professor Emeritus, Susan Vaughn, Ph.D. stated. “She has given good advice when asked and constant encouragement. She has been a great help in learning the in and outs of fundraising.”
Robinson’s experiences as a young student still bring back a rush of energy. “The excitement of this area is still there, even after retirement, I wish I could begin all over again!”
Without the support of dedicated alumni like Mel Robinson the Social Work department would not be able to produce quality students that continue to reflect the mission and commitment to social justice in their daily lives.
For more information about endowing a scholarship or providing an annual scholarship to our students, please contact the UM Foundation at (205) 665-6215 or visit montevallo.edu/giving.