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2012 NASW-MA Chapter Award Recipients
Joan Granucci Lesser, LICSW, PhD, 2012 Greatest Contribution to Social Work Practice Honoree

Joan Granucci Lesser, LICSW, PhD

Greatest Contribution to Social Work Practice

Dr. Joan Lesser founded Pioneer Valley Professionals to provide an array of mental health services to a culturally diverse and tremendously underserved population in Holyoke, MA. It would have been easy for her to establish a practice anywhere in Pioneer Valley, but she chose to develop one in Holyoke specifically because of the nature of the community’s needs and the scarcity of affordable services. The group practice now includes nine other practitioners who provide a range of clinical and social services.

An acclaimed educator and author, Dr. Lesser’s textbook, Clinical Social Work Practice: An Integrated Approach, (2008), which she wrote with Dr. Marlene Cooper, is a classic in our field, and a masterwork of writing that provides an overview of clinical thinking and theory vital to student’s understanding of clinical practice. There are also many other publications and presentations. Perhaps Dr. Lesser’s most outstanding feature is her commitment to the field of social work, to the community, and to professionals to whom she has been a most generous, good-humored and caring colleague and mentor.

Janet Richmond, LICSW, BCD, DCSW, ACSW, 2012 Beverly Ross Fliegel Award for Social Policy and Change Honoree

Janet Richmond, LICSW, BCD, DCSW, ACSW

Beverly Ross Fliegel Award for Social Policy and Change

Janet Richmond was the leading advocate and force in the pursuit of getting social work LICSWs recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as certified to perform Section 12 evaluations on people who were potentially dangerous to themselves and/or others. A talented and committed clinician, she spent many hours of her own time lobbying the legislators, collaborating with NASW and related organizations, and educating colleagues about the critical nature of the issue. The passage of this legislation granted the legal authority to LICSW social workers to sign the Section 12 evaluations.

A graduate of the Simmons College School of Social Work, Janet is currently Associate Director, Urgent Care Mental Health/Psychiatry Services VA HealthCare Systems, Boston, MA, On-call Emergency Psychiatry Clinician, Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge MA, and On-call Emergency Psychiatry Clinician Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center/McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA. In addition to her administrative and clinical responsibilities, she has held numerous teaching and training positions and currently serves as Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine. From 2008 to 2010 Janet was Vice President for Social Work for the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry (AAEP) where she is currently a Board Member. Janet brings extraordinary vision, dogged commitment, unwavering enthusiasm, and determined advocacy to the social work profession.

Karon Konner, LICSW, 2012 Emerging Leader Honoree

Karon Konner, LICSW

Emerging Leader

Karon Konner is a “trailblazer.” As an in-patient clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Karon ASKED to be assigned to the team which cares for the most challenging, long term patients who have complex medical and social problems. As guardianship consultant at MGH it is Karon to whom colleagues turn with issues regarding the elderly, the homeless and those that lack capacity. She knows the questions to ask, and how to locate the resources you had no idea existed. Her can-do style imparts a sense of empowerment and competence to her colleagues.

In January 2005, Karon ASKED and became the first social worker to join the MGH medical disaster team preparing to spend the month with Project Hope on the USNS Mercy in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, following the tsunami. She was deployed and became integral in developing a mental health framework for treating survivors of natural disasters, designing a tool kit for children, and a safe place for adults to work through trauma and grief – all without knowing a word of the language. A year later Hurricane Katrina sent Karon to Louisiana and Mississippi. Then in 2010, Karon, now a member of the Massachusetts-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, arrived in Haiti. As the only mental health specialist, she joined colleagues in setting up a disaster field hospital, triage, and debriefing. She provided crisis intervention and support to team members and remained available to the team post-deployment assuring that the mental health challenges of re-entry were attended to.

Karon is a member of the Behavioral Health Working Group developing national behavior health guidelines for responding to survivors of trauma and disaster. Karon has done all of this in just her first ten years. She is indeed a social work trailblazer, a role model, and an Emerging Leader dedicated to promoting and demonstrating the value of social work skills.

Leah O’Leary, LICSW, 2012 Lifetime Achievement Honoree

Leah O’Leary, LICSW

Lifetime Achievement

Leah O’Leary personifies the essence of social work values with her tireless advocacy for social justice, and her leadership in both public and private organizations. Her dedication and commitment to making a difference and not walking away from a problem comes from a strong belief in justice and equality for all.

After graduation, Leah volunteered for the American Red Cross in Vietnam and created programs in a recreation therapy mode, providing “A Touch of Home in a Combat Zone.” On her days off, she visited with, read to, and comforted soldiers. She began her work career in the Department of Public Welfare moving from case worker to supervisor, to DPW Commissioner. After 10 years Leah moved to the Department of Children and Families (DCF.) As a pioneer in her strengthbased, inclusive, approach with families through her work at DCF, staff learned from, and respected, the creative solutions Leah helped families reach. She quickly went up the career ladder in the Area Offices and Central Office of the Department. Leah understood that having community involvement in child welfare work was crucial.

Leah was Director of the Volunteer Case Reviewer program at DCF, a program that gave hundreds of individuals the opportunity to sit at the table with families, foster parents and social workers to help make decisions for children in foster care and residential treatment facilities. The training provided by Leah educated the community about the challenging issues families face and of the work done by DCF. Following her 12 years at DCF, Leah served as a Child Welfare Consultant to private and public agencies. Now in her 41st year of service, Leah is the founder and Executive Director of A Red Thread Adoption Services, Inc., one of the first adoption agencies to welcome gay and lesbian couples and individuals.

Expanding opportunities for women and equal rights for all is something Leah has been advocating for many years. When a family member came out as gay, she decided to run for state representative against a conservative incumbent who opposed gay marriage. She was endorsed by MA-PACE and although she didn’t win the race, her opponent changed his position as a direct result of her challenge. Through all of her accomplishments, Leah held firm to her commitment to making a difference and she succeeded. Leah O’Leary is an outstanding social worker and exemplifies the values of the social work profession.

Mary Hall, PhD, LICSW, ACSW, 2012 Greatest Contribution to Social Work Education Honoree

Mary Hall, PhD, LICSW, ACSW

Greatest Contribution to Social Work Education

Mary Hall has an MSW from Smith College School for Social Work (Smith), an MA in Applied Sociology from Boston University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and a PhD from Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work, and was recently certified in Diversity Mediation at Smith. Now a professor at Smith, Mary began her career as a caseworker with the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1966. She has been an educator in the field of social work for over 40 years and has taught master’s level courses in psychodynamic theory, adolescents, adult neurosis, populations at risk and substance abuse treatment and policy. On the doctoral level she has taught advanced clinical practice, and advanced psychological theory. She also serves as advisor for master’s thesis and field placement.

Dr. Hall’s areas of research and publication include curriculum development for alcohol and substance abuse treatment, and the intersection of race and substance abuse. Her extensive contributions to NASW on both the state and national levels, and to social work education as a teacher, scholar and accreditation site visitor showcase her competence and commitment to furthering the profession’s ethics and values.

Gunner Scott, BA, 2012 Public Citizen of the Year Honoree

Gunner Scott, BA

Public Citizen of the Year

Gunner Scott is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition which spearheaded the 2011 legislative campaign to pass the House Bill 1722 “An Act Relative to Gender -Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes.” It was a momentous time for the people of the Commonwealth. The legislation protects gender identity and gender expression.

Mr. Scott has been involved with the transgender rights movement for the last 10 years and is a nationally recognized activist, educator, and community organizer on transgender rights and LGBT health issues. His work touches many other areas including youth, HIV, domestic violence, and substance abusers. His involvement is underscored by his commitment to equal rights, safety, and respect for the lives of each and every one of us.

Gunner embodies many of the values and ethics that social workers espouse, in particular that each of us should be able to live with dignity and respect.

Earl Stuck, 2012 Employer of the Year Honoree

Earl “Skip” Stuck, BA, MACEO of Family Continuity Programs Inc.

Employer of the Year

Skip Stuck is the Chief Executive Officer of Family Continuity Programs Inc., a family service agency, operating 20 programs in over 300 communities throughout Eastern and Central Massachusetts. He is nationally known for his passion and commitment to vulnerable children, youths, and families, and to the organizations and individuals who serve them. He has consulted and spoken extensively on subjects such as advocacy, non-profit administration, residential group care, juvenile justice and youth issues, worker safety, and working with the families of children and youth in out-of-home care.

Throughout his work history, Mr. Stuck has been highly supportive of social workers and their mission to help people within their environments, and looking at all the aspects of clients’ lives and culture. He sees that social workers are supremely skilled in developing therapeutic relationships, understanding developmental issues, and working closely with family networks to provide successful treatment. At times, he would exclusively advertise for social workers whether it was at The Baird Center, RFK Children’s Action Corps, Children’s Welfare League of America, or in his present position as CEO of Family Continuity.

After a tragedy in his present agency, when an experienced clinical social worker was killed during a home visit, he began working tirelessly to bring social worker safety to the public’s awareness through continued advocacy with the media. He has worked with state agencies to develop safety protocols for social workers across the country. He is a major force in the Chapter’s statewide Social Work Safety Task Force providing countless hours of training, testifying, and advocacy for social worker safety.


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