Baylor Mourns Passing of Diana Garland, Founding Dean of the School of Social Work

September 22, 2015

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275

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Visit the tribute page to Diana Garland on the School of Social Work website.

WACO, Texas (Sept. 22, 2015) – Baylor University is mourning the passing of founding School of Social Work Dean Diana R. Garland, who died Monday, Sept. 21, in Colorado following a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Services are pending. UPDATE: A public memorial service for Diana Garland will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, at First Baptist Church of Waco, 500 Webster Ave.

"Baylor University has lost a cherished, fiercely dedicated and visionary servant leader in Dr. Diana Garland, the inaugural dean of the School of Social Work which now bears her name," said Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr. "Dean Garland prayerfully and powerfully guided the School in its growth from the very beginning as a fledgling department to its standing today as an independent, nationally recognized school known for research excellence and unwavering Christian commitment.

"Diana has always been a remarkable inspiration. She led the School of Social Work with distinction and honor for nearly 20 years. More recently, the strength, resolve and dignity with which she encountered her illness has left a powerful and lasting impression on us all," Starr said. "The Baylor community extends its deepest sympathies to her beloved husband, our own David Garland, her children, Sarah and John, and four beautiful grandchildren. We all have been blessed to have known Diana, a good and faithful servant to the adopted university she loved with her whole heart. Her work leaves a legacy of changed lives, healed families, strengthened congregations and expanded frontiers of knowledge in the field of social work."

(Read more about David and Diana Garland in the summer 2015 Baylor Magazine story "Good Shepherds.")

This past April, Baylor's Board of Regents voted to rename the School in her honor as the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

On Monday night, the School shared the news of Garland's passing:

    It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our founding dean, Dr. Diana Garland. Diana has fiercely battled pancreatic cancer for six months and lived life to the fullest during these last months of her life, celebrating the birth of a new grandson and her 45th wedding anniversary with Dr. David Garland. During this time, the Garlands were able to spend their time in Colorado, where Diana marveled at the beauty of God's creation and the bounty of God's love. Until the very end, she shared her faith and hope with everyone around her. Diana came to be a part of our beloved School of Social Work at Baylor 18 years ago. She was an amazing mentor, teacher, scholar and friend, and she will be greatly missed. Although we mourn deeply, we can still smile as we feel her presence in these halls and whisper her name with each mention of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

"Diana is known throughout the profession as the image of the integration of faith and practice. We use that phrase to describe our school, as what we want our students to learn, and it is the essence of Diana Garland. Her social work teaching, research, writing and leadership were all expressions of her faith," said Jon E. Singletary, Ph.D., interim dean and holder of The Diana R. Garland Endowed Chair of Child and Family Studies.

"I have worked for Diana for almost 15 years, and I am so grateful for the way she took me under her wing and modeled faithful, servant leadership for me. She was my dean and my mentor, and she was my friend and inspiration," Singletary said. "She expected a lot from me, she gave a ton of herself to me, and most importantly, I always knew she loved me and was proud of me."

Garland earned her undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees, all from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. For 17 years, she served as professor of Christian family ministry and social work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. She also served as dean of the Carver School of Church Social Work and director of the Center for Family Ministries. Prior to teaching, she was administrative director of a pastoral counseling center.

Garland's legacy at the School of Social Work

Together, the Garlands joined the Baylor faculty in 1997. In 1998, Diana Garland was named director of the university's then-new Center for Family and Community Ministries. She became chair of the social work department in 2001 and, in 2005, was named inaugural dean of the School of Social Work. During the following decade, she championed the School's rise to national and international recognition, while maintaining its steadfast mission to prepare social workers in a Christian context for worldwide service and leadership.

Social work professor Preston Dyer hired Garland to help Baylor move the undergraduate social work program to a full-service and nationally recognized School of Social Work, which admitted its first Ph.D. cohort in 2013.

"I've known many people who had a new idea a minute but few who had the ability to put those ideas into action," Dyer said. "Diana had so many good ideas that sometime I got a headache just hearing them, but she was one of the few that could take an idea and carry it to fulfillment. She was one of a kind in many ways: talented social worker; creative teacher; excellent writer and researcher; strong administrator. We were colleagues and friends for close to 20 years. We didn't always agree, but we had mutual respect and always had each other's back. I already miss her."

During Garland's tenure as dean, the School of Social Work rose to national prominence, and the faculty grew from five full-time professors and lecturers to a full-time faculty of 20. Graduate student enrollment in the program increased to 120 and undergraduate enrollment grew to 120 students. Garland also raised more than $7.4 million in research and program grants, and the School of Social Work established an endowment of $14.5 million. She oversaw the School's move in December 2010 from the Speight Avenue Parking complex to renovated space in downtown Waco, which allowed the School to triple its teaching and lab space.

Garland's legacy also includes growth in academic programs, from a baccalaureate and master's degree programs in social work to three joint-degree options (MSW/Master of Business Administration, MSW/Master of Divinity and MSW/Master of Theological Studies) through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. program.

In addition, the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work welcomed its first students this fall in a Houston-based master's degree program in social work.

Garland was author, co-author or editor of 21 books and more than 100 academic articles. Some of her literary works included "Flawed Families of the Bible: How God's Grace Works through Imperfect Relationships," "Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together," "Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide" and her latest book, "Why I Am a Social Worker: 25 Christians Tell Their Life Stories." She had served as editor of the Journal of Family and Community Ministries since 1993.

Garland also gave significant service to national social work organizations. She served as a Board Member of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work from 2009 to 2014 and Councilor for the Council on Social Work Education from 2003 to 2013. She served multiple terms as president of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work.

She also was first lady of Baylor University when David Garland, then dean of Truett Seminary, was named interim president in 2008. She served in that additional capacity until 2010.

Garland is survived by her husband, David; daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Matthew; son, John, and his wife, Abby; three granddaughters, Aurora Grace, Azalea Faith and Tess Moran; and grandson, Matthew Edward.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


Baylor University's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work is home to one of the leading graduate social work programs in the nation with a research agenda focused on the integration of faith and practice. Upholding its mission of preparing social workers in a Christian context for worldwide service and leadership, the School offers a baccalaureate degree (BSW), a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and three joint-degree options (MSW/Master of Business Administration, MSW/Master of Divinity and MSW/Master of Theological Studies) through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. program. Visit to learn more.