Bethany College Professor Emerita Named W.Va. Social Worker of the Year
BETHANY – Kathy Shelek-Furbee has been an integral part of Bethany College for more than three decades and, as she heads into retirement, she earned another major honor.
The West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has recognized Shelek-Furbee, now a professor emerita at Bethany, as the West Virginia Social Worker of the Year. The annual award recognizes significant contributions in the field of social work and to West Virginia.
Shelek-Furbee was given the award during a digital ceremony. She noted that her colleagues were with her along the way.
“I’ve been doubly blessed both as a social worker and an educator that I’ve got to do two things that I really love to do a lot, and most people can’t say they get to do one,” she said.
Shelek-Furbee joined the Bethany faculty in 1984, became director of the social work program in 2001, and chair in 2007. Under the Wheeling native’s guidance, more than 200 social workers have graduated and have contributed to their field and their communities in a variety of roles. She also advised students in Bethany’s KALON leadership program for more than 20 years.
“Professor Shelek-Furbee’s students and graduates speak of her firm but compassionate manner and insistence on attention to detail,” Bethany Provost and Dean of Faculty Joe Lane said. “She has led both in her teaching and by her example, inspiring hundreds of young people to become great social workers and citizens. I cannot imagine a stronger candidate for the West Virginia Social Worker of the Year.”
Shelek-Furbee served four years as Bethany’s associate provost and stepped in as acting chair of the education department. In the months before her retirement, she served on the steering committee that prepared Bethany faculty for its transition to remote learning as the COVID-19 emergency swept the country.
Bethany has recognized Shelek-Furbee with numerous accolades, including the John R. Taylor Award for Leadership in the Liberal Arts (2019); the T.A. Abbott Award for Faculty Excellence (2015); the President’s Award for Excellence (2010); and the James E. Allison Award for Excellence in Teaching (2006).
Yet her impact on the social work landscape extends beyond the Bethany College campus. In 2008, she introduced the Bethany College Symposium to provide continuing education opportunities to professionals in the Northern Panhandle. The low-cost one and two-day training allowed social workers and nurse to complete continuing education and connect with other local professionals.
For the last 18 years, she has served as the leader of FOCUS, a family violence prevention program, at the Wheeling Young Women’s Christian Association. In that role, she designs and facilitates an anger management group for women.