by presenter: Tawanda Hubbard
The NASW-NJ Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the best in social work values and professional accomplishments over the social worker’s entire career.
When describing why William “Bill” Waldman is our 2015 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, it’s hard to know where to begin. So I’ll start with the best part: Bill Waldman is a social worker!
A Rutgers School of Social Work grad, he began his distinguished career as a caseworker with the Essex County Welfare Board.
He soon was appointed the County’s administrator for Food Stamp and Employment & Training programs, and then became director of the Department of Human Services in Middlesex County.
In 1982, he was named NASW- NJ’s Social Worker of the Year.
Largely because of Waldman’s non-political and outcome-oriented philosophy, Governor Thomas H. Kean appointed him Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services in 1989. Governor James J. Florio appointed him Commissioner in 1992 and, in an unprecedented step, Governor Christine Todd Whitman reappointed him as Commissioner in 1994.
As DHS Commissioner, Bill transformed services in health care, child welfare, mental illness, and developmental disabilities.
He managed a $7 billion budget and led a workforce of 19,000 in expanding services to more than one million New Jersey citizens.
His skill in reaching out to others made it possible for him to successfully implement Governor Christine Todd Whitman’s WorkFirst New Jersey welfare reform effort. This effort, marked by extensive public and private partnerships, resulted in a drop in New Jersey’s welfare caseload by more than 50 percent, as record numbers of recipients joined the workforce.
He took bold action for Medicaid recipients. Through Federal program waivers, more than 400,000 individuals, mostly young families with children, were enrolled in HMOs.
He also expanded opportunities for people with disabilities. Through an exhaustive planning effort, DHS moved residents out of institutions into fuller and more productive lives in the community, with an array of supportive services and supports.
In another arena, Bill oversaw the New Jersey Kid Care program, which expanded eligibility for Medicaid for the lowest income families and provided high quality health care for thousands of children in lower and moderate-income families.
After leaving state government in 1998, Bill Waldman led the American Public Human Services Association, which enabled him to connect with leaders nationwide.
Today, he inspires social work students as a teacher and mentor. His lectures draw consistent praise from students who view his vast experience and his ability to connect with others as an essential element in their educational experience.
Let me cite just two of Professor Waldman’s evaluations by students:
The first: “The single most influential professor I've had throughout my college career.”
And the second: “Waldman rules! The man is legend, and the opportunity to learn from him is amazing. If you are able to, take a class with William Waldman.”
Bill also continues to reach out to others through his leadership of voluntary community service and professional organizations. He has an outstanding reputation in the governmental, non-profit, health care, and corporate sectors.
NASW-NJ was fortunate to have Bill as our Chapter President from 2007 to 2009. During his tenure, he used his position to promote a message of service to others.
Throughout his career, Bill Waldman has been a vigorous voice for the voiceless. He has been an exceptional social worker at both the state and national level. Most importantly, he has provided hope, opportunity, and a better life for the most vulnerable among us.
Finally, I would like to share a moment from the dedication ceremony of the William Waldman Independence House in 2008. This facility, founded by the New Jersey Community Development Corporation in Paterson, provides housing and supportive services for young people during their final years in the foster care system.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony in June 2008, former New Jersey DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez said:
“It is so appropriate that this new home is named after a man who has committed his professional life to being a change agent through his advocacy and compassion for others. Bill Waldman’s openness, confidence and ease in connecting with people from all walks of life makes knowing him a pleasure and a comfort. May the young men—whose travels through life bring them to the crossroads of Independence House—learn to identify with the man whose path in life is so worthy of following!”
With this as background, it is my great honor to present the NASW-NJ 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill Waldman.