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The Legacy of Claire Massey

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By Mary Van Hook

On June 15, 2009, the School of Social Work lost a colleague who was a devoted mother and friend and consummate professional in social work. Claire Massey passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. 

Claire was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Winston and Elizabeth Massey, both professors at the University of Chattanooga. Her father served as the Guerry Professor of Mathematics and chairman of the math department. Her mother was a professor of French. Claire was valedictorian of her class from Chattanooga High School, completed her undergraduate degree at Rhodes College and earned her master's degree in social work from Tulane University in 1968.

In the many years Claire practiced social work, she worked in the mental health field and with Orange County Public Schools. At UCF, she made important contributions in her roles as a member of the Community Advisory Board, instructor and field coordinator until she took an early retirement in 2005 due to illness.

Claire brought to the school her extensive knowledge of social work, her commitment to providing a quality education for students, her care for others, her sense of integrity and her wisdom. She consistently went the extra mile to find new field placements for students, match students with a good learning experience, support students in their field placements and advocate for students. She was a steady presence for students facing the anxiety of taking on their complex internship responsibilities. Everyone trusted her integrity and good judgment and enjoyed her love of life and sense of humor. She was an elegant woman who carried the banner of the social work profession with dignity.

Claire was also a person of great courage who fought her battle with cancer with bravery and dignity. She was an inspiration for all of us. As evidence of the respect and affection Claire engendered in others, when she retired, field instructors filled a large scrapbook with notes of their fond memories of working with her.

Claire has left an important legacy of grace and courage for all of us who were fortunate enough to have our lives be touched by her. She will be deeply missed by all.

A memorial service will be held on June 27, 2009, at noon at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 251 East Lake Brantley Drive, Longwood, Florida 32779. The family has asked that anyone attending honor Claire's memory by wearing colorful attire. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Resurrection Memorial Fund, Hospice of the Comforter or the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

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