1906 – 1992
Championed child welfare regulations and protective services through licensing
Norris Class was a most accomplished and distinguished social work leader, both as a professor who inspired his policy and social welfare history students, and as an impassioned pioneer in childcare regulation. Born in Ohio, Class studied history at the University of Alabama and obtained his Masters in Applied Social Sciences form Western Reserve University. He developed his lifelong commitment to child welfare issues during his graduate training. He also engaged in post-graduate training at both the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, focusing on child welfare and childcare regulation. He is perhaps best remembered for his work in the area of licensing of child welfare agencies.
His positions in the field included several professorships: the University of Oregon, Tulane University and the University Southern California, the latter from 1941-1972. As a social work educator, his passion for the importance of the past in the achievements of the future was without equal, and he inspired many of his students to achieve worthy prominence in child welfare and administration both locally and nationally. Through his guidance, a number of doctoral students at USC created dissertations tracing the history of social welfare in California in a variety of special fields. The fact that he was able to engage his students in an inspired intellectual journey is captured by one of his students, who wrote of him,
“Mr. Class, in quite a deliberate manner, made social welfare history come alive. We, his students, became a part of it, or at least first-hand development. Reading assignments were many; much of what we were required to read were original documents or accounts of conditions. The result was that we not only learned about situations, but in a sense we were asked to ‘experience’ them, to know what it must have felt like to be poor and a parent in colonial America or a prisoner or an immigrant round the turn of the century. We learned not only about social welfare policy, but about the context in which it developed.” (Rosell Kurland: “Great Teacher: Norris Class”, Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Vol. 12 (1/2) 1995, Haworth Press).
He also held the post of State Director of Child Welfare Services, Oregon Public Welfare Commission, 1936-40, and was engaged in various important public policy research efforts including those with the City of Los Angeles Health Department and California State Department of Social Welfare, the Federal Department of Health Education and Welfare on the Research Advisory Group for Child Welfare. He was additionally a founder of the Delinquency Control Institute in Los Angeles, a pioneering effort to establish a training model in that field. Indeed, Norris Class leaves a far-reaching and diverse social work legacy.