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Ralph E. Pumphrey, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and a nationally recognized innovator in community planning, died Thursday, Jan. 9, 1997, at St. Louis' Alexian Brothers Hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 89.
A highly regarded teacher and social-welfare historian, Pumphrey joined the Washington University faculty in 1959 and served as acting dean of social work in 1964 and as chair of the University Council from 1965-67. He retired in 1976 but remained active at the University and with local nonprofit groups, including Delmo Housing Corp., the Good Samaritan Home and United Church of Christ Neighborhood Houses.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Pumphrey earned a bachelor's degree in 1928 from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He taught history at New York University from 1932-33 and earned a doctorate in English and social history in 1934 from Yale University. He taught a humanities course in Yale's Department of Electrical Engineering until 1937, but volunteer work with the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities spurred his interest in social work.
He earned a diploma in 1940 from the New York School of Social Work (now part of Columbia University) and spent the next 15 years as a researcher and director at social service agencies in South Carolina, New York and Indiana. From 1943-44, he taught physics in the Air Corps' cadet-training program at New York's Syracuse University. From 1956-59, he taught social work at New York University.
He is survived by a son and a daughter and his wife of 62 years, Muriel Pumphrey, a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He and his wife collaborated on research that contributed to the development and strengthening of social work knowledge in the United States. The couple also spent three years teaching advanced social work skills in Norway.
His body was donated to the School of Medicine. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Scholarship Fund, School of Social Work, Campus Box 1196, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63130.
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