NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
John Gillette Milner (1912- )
Milner was professor of social work at the University of Southern California from 1946 until his retirement in 1977. A distinguished teacher with special expertise in child welfare, he also taught concurrently for 18 summers at Tulane University, where he holds a Lifetime Professor appointment. He continues to lecture, conduct workshops, and serve as consultant in a wide range of public and voluntary settings under a variety of auspices (including Elderhostel) in many states and such far-flung localities as Guam, Hawaii, England, and Canada.
"John Milner: A Teacher for all Seasons", published in the Journal of Teaching in Social Work in 1989, captures the special qualities that have characterized his professional career. As a teacher, he has enthralled students in professional schools, inspired volunteers to active and sophisticated participation in agency service. He encourages communities and social agencies (including the Veterans Administration) to institute and/or refine programs centered on children, families, and in recent years, the elderly.
Some of his lectures on child welfare and foster care, as well as delinquency and corrections, have been taped for worldwide distribution. He has pioneered certain teaching modalities, including film; he undertook the first training under Headstart; he has quietly advocated the importance of adhering to certain fundamental principles. For example, he declined to teach in a building on the Tulane University campus to which black students could not be admitted under the terms of the will establishing the building. The following year, the covenant was abandoned and black students officially were welcomed.
A dedicated believer in volunteerism, Milner has always devoted considerable time and energy to volunteer activities on boards of directors, civic and agency committees, and in various professional organizations. Active now, among other activities, in the volunteer program of McClaren Home -- the Los Angeles County shelter and detention facility for children, he also teaches seminars in the wider community under the auspices of the Emeriti College at USC.
Over more than half a century of contributions in social welfare, Milner has garnered many awards in New York, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Hawaii, and California. The University of Southern California established the John Milner Professorship in Child Welfare in his honor.