James W. Callicutt was associated with the profession of Social Work starting in1953 when he first worked as a child welfare worker in his native state of Tennessee. He subsequently held various positions in the state as a Family Service caseworker, a Clinical Social Worker at the VA, and as a chief psychiatric social worker in a mental health center. Later he moved to Massachusetts as a Veterans Administration (VA) Cinical Social Worker, while completing his doctoral studies in social work at Brandeis University.
In 1968, Dr. Callicutt became Assistant Dean at the newly formed Social Work Program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), which itself was a developing institution at that time. Dr. Callicutt was soon appointed to Associate Dean in 1972, a position he held until 1993, and again from 1993-1996, a total of 24 years. Dr. Callicutt was promoted to full Professor in 1973, and at the time of his retirement he had served on the faculty for 40 years.
Dr. Callicutt's contribution to Social Work Education in Texas for 40 years was that of a pioneer. His major contributions were seen in his successful academic and professional leadership of the School of Social Work at UTA, which influenced its growth and development from its very beginnings in 1968 to the success and recognition received by the school today. A large measure of that transformation can be ascribed to James W. Callicutt. Additionally, in this leadership role he undertook countless patient and diplomatic negotiations with other universities that resulted in collaborative programs giving access to groups of students in areas of Texas where graduate social work education was otherwise unavailable. Dr. Callicutt's unwavering support and encouragement of the non-traditional working student meant that many achieved success in graduate education and were in turn able to contribute to the profession of Social Work and the improvement of service delivery across the state of Texas. Additionally, many of those programs, as detailed below, later became independent programs as an outcome of the collaboration with the UTA School of Social Work.
- Curriculum building and development: As Assistant and Associate Dean for 28 years, one of Dr. Callicutt's major responsibilities was curriculum. From the early days of his arrival he successfully worked on getting the school accredited by the Council Social Work Education (CSWE) from 1969-1970, and he led three further re-accreditation initiatives in 1972-1973, 1983-1984, and 1991-1992. As Chair of the Curriculum Committee, he provided leadership for the academic curriculum functions of the faculty. In these roles he greatly influenced the development and direction of the curriculum of the School of Social Work at UTA.
- Development of collaborative programs: Dr. Callicutt was responsible for the development of numerous collaborative programs in north, east and west Texas, and also in the Rio Grande valley, that enabled students in remote parts of the state to access graduate and undergraduate education in Social Work. The students were often working women with family responsibilities, which meant they could not undertake the long distance travel necessary to come to the metroplex area for their studies because of the travel distances involved. Many were other non-traditional students, who for funding or other reasons would not have had access to professional education. He successfully sought funding for these programs to the extent that students often had even their text book purchases funded. Dr. Callicutt always took a personal interest in these programs and in the students, in many cases acting as academic advisor to the program, and always being sure to visit on a regular basis. The support and encouragement of students throughout his career distinguished Dr. Callicutt's tenure at UTA School of Social Work, as a faculty member and administrator, and represented the values of the social work profession in enabling, and empowering others who needed a hand up. Many social workers across the state of Texas can attest to this. The collaborative programs were as follows: West Texas University; Stephen F. Austin State University in East Texas; University of Texas at Tyler; Texas Tech University; East Texas State University, later known as Texas A&M University-Commerce; Hardin Simmons University; Mid-Western State University; and, the University of Texas-Pan American. After several years of collaboration, many of these programs were successful in establishing and building independent programs that operate today in those regions. Thus, Dr. Callicutt had an enormous pioneering influence on the establishment of Social Work Education across the state of Texas, and of opening access to professional education to non-traditional students.
- Improving service delivery in the state of Texas: These collaborative programs described above, significantly improved the quality of social welfare service delivery in myriad ways in both urban and rural settings across the State of Texas. If it had not been for the collaborative programs, many agencies would have continued to function with professionally unqualified workers.
- The backbone of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington: In his distinguished years of service to UTA School of Social Work, Dr. Callicutt provided a continuity of leadership, both academic and professional. During the changing administrations of six Deans of the School of Social Work, he provided steady direction and strong academic standards. He also fulfilled the role of Interim Dean on at least three occasions, always willing to serve the interests of the school.
- NASW: Dr. Callicutt was an active member of NASW throughout his career. He was Chair of the Longhorn Chapter (Texas) prior to the establishment of the Tarrant County Unit Texas, where he was also Chair. He was active at the state level as a Board Member of the NASW Texas Chapter from 1990-1992 and on the leadership and nominations committee. He also was a representative to the national House of Delegates 1970-1972. Dr. Callicutt always encouraged students to join NASW.
- Effective role model for successive cohorts of faculty and students: However stressful, or difficult the situation, he always was the epitome of a professional.
- Principal Investigator and/or author: Funded grants and educational contracts totaling approximately $3,000,000.
- Representative of Social Work in the University Community at UTA: Dr. Callicutt served on numerous university committees where his input was always judicious and respected. This was especially important in the early years, as the School of Social Work was becoming established, and needed the recognition and respect of interdisciplinary colleagues across the university.
- Community service: Dr. Callicutt served on the boards as member and chair of at least 24 agencies and organizations. He was well known throughout the social work community in Texas and was referred to with affection and respect by those who knew him.
- Mental health scholar and teacher: Among his many academic achievements was his work as a scholar in the field of mental health. He co-edited Mental Health Policy and Practice Today, edited by Watkins, Ted R. & Callicutt, James W. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997; and, Social Work and Mental Health, ed. by Callicutt, James W. & Lecca, Pedro J. New York: Free Press, 1983. He also wrote a book chapter, "Social Policies and Mental Health," in Midgley, James, Tracy, Martin B. & Livermore, Michelle, eds. The Handbook of Social Policies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2000.
Like all pioneers he was strongly committed to his cause.
James W. Callicutt Obituary