John G. Milner

1912 – 2010

Distinguished teacher with special expertise in child welfare

A revered teacher with special expertise in child welfare, John Gillette Milner was a professor at the USC School of Social Work from 1946 through 1977. Along with his extraordinary career at USC, he taught for 18 summers at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he held a lifetime professorship. He also lectured, conducted workshops and served as a consultant in a wide range of public and voluntary settings across the United States, Guam, England and Canada. Well after his retirement, Milner would continue to teach seminars through the university’s Emeriti Center College.

Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1912, Milner received his bachelor’s degree at Stanford University in 1934 and his MSW in 1946 from Columbia University in New York. He began his social work career in Iowa as a consultant administering emergency relief and the director of the federal transient program. Later, Milner helped introduce residential treatment centers to the United States as the associate director of the Ryther Child Center in Seattle. In 1942, he was a psychologist in the 142nd Army General Hospital in the South Pacific.

Milner’s work was published in numerous journals and magazines. “John Milner: A Teacher for All Seasons” published in the Journal of Teaching in Social Work in 1989, genuinely captured the qualities that illustrated his professional career. And with more than half a century of contributions in social welfare, Milner garnered awards across the United States, including Best Teacher of the Year from the National Association of Social Workers.

As an educator, Milner encouraged communities and social agencies–including the Veterans Administration–to institute or refine programs centered on children, families and older adults. He knew the importance of adhering to fundamental principles and quietly advocated for those he was passionate about. He refused to teach in a Tulane University building that barred admittance to African-American students under the terms of the donor’s will. The following year, the covenant was abandoned and black students were officially welcomed.

Throughout his career, Milner was said to have inspired students to participate in their communities. A dedicated believer in volunteerism, Milner devoted considerable time and energy to volunteer activities on boards of directors, civic and agency committees and various professional organizations. He was an active volunteer at the McLaren Home, a Los Angeles County shelter and detention facility for children, and an advocate for social welfare worldwide.

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