Obituary: Dean at University of Pittsburgh school of social work

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David Epperson, a lifelong social reformer whose 29-year stewardship built the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work into a nationally recognized program, died Monday of an apparent heart attack while attending a meeting of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh at the Duquesne Club. He was rushed to UPMC Mercy but could not be revived, said his daughter, Sharon Epperson. He was 76.

The son of a steelworker from Donora, Mr. Epperson lived out his commitment to education, racial equality, social and civic improvement through decades of leadership at the university, the Urban League, the YMCA and a host of boards and committees.

“Dave was a great public servant who contributed a huge amount to this community in multiple ways,” said Mo Coleman, director emeritus of Pitt’s Institute of Politics and a longtime colleague. “There was hardly any area of life in the city that he didn’t improve.”

Eric Mann, president of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, noted Mr. Epperson’s work on such YMCA programs as Youth in Government, which teaches high schoolers about civic engagement, gang intervention in Homewood and men’s housing issues Downtown. Mr. Mann called him “an iconic figure as well as a friend and mentor to so many of us. He is going to be missed.”

When he retired in 2001, Mr. Epperson was the longest-serving dean in Pitt history, its only African-American dean and the longest-serving dean of social work in the country.

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