1923 – 1992
Pioneer in inspiring gerontological social work
Mary O’Day, the figure most closely associated with the origins and development of gerontology education at University of California, Berkeley School of Social Welfare, joined that faculty in 1968 after many years as an adult protective services worker and adult services program manager in the Bay Area.
During her 20-year tenure as Coordinator of Berkeley’s Gerontology Program, she played a primary role in defining graduate training in gerontology. She established strong working relationships with newly forming gerontology social service agencies in the Bay Area, and served on many local, state, and national committees that shaped the “aging network.” Her graduates, “Mary’s Mafia,” administer many gerontology programs throughout California.
O’Day was instrumental in the development and advancement of gerontology both as an educational program and as a practice arena. She served as a bridge between the University and the social work practice community, advocating for the importance of gerontological social work as a separate professional specialty, and promoting the development of services to older adults in a wide variety of medical and social service settings throughout Northern California.
Her leadership, her enthusiasm, and her skills as both a teacher and fieldwork consultant served to catalyze the field of aging services, institutionalizing it in educational, advocacy, and social agency settings. She was involved over the years in a great number of consultancies, task forces, and planning committees in the aging field. She provided consultation on gerontological education to Holy Names College, the Ethel Andrus Percy Gerontology Center, the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and the University of Nevada. She also directed several federally funded gerontology training programs at Berkeley.
She served as Vice President of California Specialists on Aging, was an active member of the California Council on Geriatrics and Gerontology, a Consultant to the Berkley commission on Aging, and published Toward a Master Plan: Priorities in the Field of Aging for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Aging.
O’Day was a tireless speaker and promoter of aging services and she prompted important substantive changes in the character of the social work program. She retired in 1988 after a long and inspiring career. The School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley administers the Mary O’Day Memorial Fellowship award annually to a master’s degree student interested in a career in gerontology.