Irving Piliavin was a professor at the UW-Madison School of Social Work from 1970 until his retirement in 1996, and was dedicated to his research characterized by precision of measurement and the use of advanced statistical techniques. He had a special research interest in crime and delinquency control, evaluation of welfare reform programs, and foster care programs, and was one of the first major scholars to study homelessness as a social problem.
Professor Piliavin loved to conduct research to answer questions he had about how society worked, and championed the critical role of research in social work practice long before it became popular. With a background in math and physics through his bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley, Professor Piliavin excelled in statistical research, and often sat in on other professors’ classes to stay up to date on the latest statistical methods. He combined his strong methodology with a natural understanding of the important questions to ask in his research, spearheading or contributing to a number of important studies in the social work field.
As a mentor, Professor Piliavin helped launch and support others’ careers in social work and social work research. Irv was a mentor who showed his students that he valued the work they were doing, but would also be their toughest critic to help improve their work.
Passionate about his family, Professor Piliavin loved to spend time with his two granddaughters (pictured above). He also enjoyed playing poker, and once took his wife, Jane Piliavin, on a cruise to Alaska with his poker winnings. He also enjoyed athletics, and was skilled across the sports he tried, from football and basketball to jogging and hiking.
Professor Piliavin’s friends established this fund to honor and remember him, with support from his family, colleagues and former students. Established before his death in 2009, at the age of 81, the scholarship reflects Irving’s desire to support students who, like him, are dedicated to the use of statistical research methods to support solutions to real-world problems. He saw himself and other social work researchers as privileged to be able to use their work to help marginalized populations, and therefore responsible to do their best work.