Porter-Cason Institute advances family therapy with support from two sisters
The Cason sisters are major benefactors of the School of Social Work. Pictured are Dr. Louise Cason, left, circa 1944, and Dorothy Cason, circa 1950.
March 25, 2013
An early pioneer in the field of social work, Dorothy Cason believed all problems had a solution. She had a straightforward approach. Help is only as far as the nearest social worker.
The Elizabeth Porter and Dorothy Cason Institute for the Advancement of Family Therapy was borne out of this belief. The institute was founded with a $1 million gift to the Tulane School of Social Work shortly before her death in 1995.
The gift was the realization of a lifetime goal. Cason (SW ’46) built her wealth to honor Porter, her professor and field advisor, and give back to her alma mater.
‘Social work is everything’
Born in Lakeland, Fla., Cason lost her father to kidney disease at 17. His death preceded the stock market crash of 1929. The twin disasters forced her to postpone her undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama.
She stumbled across the emerging field of psychiatric social work during a stint at the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. After graduating from Florida Southern College in 1939, she found her way to graduate school at Tulane, where a master’s degree in social work “meant everything to her,” says her sister, Dr. Louise Cason.
At the time, social work was in its infancy. And Dorothy Cason made her mark. She pioneered advancements in family practice through her efforts leading Family Service in Dade County, Florida for 28 years. She was highly respected among her peers for her compassion and leadership.
Although Dorothy wanted her younger sister to follow in her footsteps, Louise took a different journey. Dr. Cason became chief of pediatrics for the Miami Children’s Hospital, where she set standards for emergency care.
Whatever their differences, the Cason sisters bonded later in life. Dr. Cason made it her mission to ensure her sister’s wishes were honored after her death.
But Dr. Cason’s efforts on behalf of Tulane didn’t end with the Porter-Cason Institute.
Another family legacy
In 2007, Dr. Cason facilitated a bequest of $1.5 million from her friend, Shirley Kurzweg Gouaux. The gift endowed the Dr. Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health.
In 2011, she made her own gift of $200,000 in her late sister’s memory. The gift endowed the Dorothy Cason, MSW and Helen Leach, MSW Fund for the Porter-Cason Institute. Dorothy Cason met Helen Leach while studying at Tulane. The two lifelong companions were devoted to one another, said Dr. Cason. The endowed fund supports the institute and links the women’s names in perpetuity.
The Porter-Cason Institute is committed to upholding the Cason sisters’ legacies in partnership with the School of Social Work. A new family practice certificate program debuting this fall will train the trainers, teaching therapists how to strengthen and empower families. Tulane is one of few universities in the country to offer the certification.
The program further realizes Dorothy Cason’s vision: “Strong families are free families, and free families build free people.”
Erika Herran is a writer in the Office of Development.
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