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School prospered with dean's guidance

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

David E. Epperson, dean emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work who led the school to national prominence during his 29-year tenure, was affectionately and respectfully known by all simply as "the dean of deans."

Mr. Epperson was attending a meeting Monday night at the Downtown offices of the YMCA -- an organization that had been an important part of his life since 1958 when he was a Pitt freshman -- when he died of an apparent heart attack, school officials said Tuesday. He was 76.

"Dave Epperson and I began working together as deans more than a quarter-century ago," Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said in a statement. "He already was an accomplished academic leader at the time, so I naturally turned to him for guidance. He remained a special source of advice, encouragement and support through all the years that followed."

Mr. Epperson served as dean of Pitt's School of Social Work from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. He was the longest-serving dean at Pitt and the longest-serving dean of any American school of social work when he retired.

University officials said the School of Social Work's enrollment more than tripled under his leadership and its ranking soared to the top 10 percent of accredited graduate social work programs in the country.

Mr. Epperson provided key leadership to the university's Center for Mental Health Services Research, one of only seven National Institute of Mental Health centers of its type in the country. He also developed the Child Welfare Leadership Program which provides educational opportunities for public child welfare personnel.

"While he also found time for many other worthy causes, here in Pittsburgh and in more distant locations, Dave devoted most of his professional life to Pitt, where he was respectfully known as 'the dean of deans,'" Nordenberg said.

Mr. Epperson is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren.

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