Maryville mourns social work leader and alum Bierdeman-Fike, `44


ST. LOUIS — The Maryville University community mourns the death of Jane Bierdeman-Fike, ’44, who was a nationally  influencial social worker. She was known for her work helping the mentally ill, for educating others in her field and for her commitment to social justice. She died at age 89 on March 13, 2012, at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Mo.

Bierdeman-Fike served as the director of psychiatric social work at Fulton State Hospital for 38 years. She was known for her abilities to educate and mentor employees and students, and she worked with several universities to do so, including Maryville. She worked to develop forensic social work practice, which is applying social work to issues related to the law, and in cultural competence training. Cultural competence training allows for a better understanding of people across cultures in order to better meet their needs.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Maryville College in 1944 and received her Master of Social Work degree from Saint Louis University in 1949. She served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Missouri School of Social Work, teaching social policy in the late 1960s and 1970s, and established the Jane Bierdeman-Fike Doctoral Fellowship Fund in Social Work in support of the Ph.D. program.

“Social Work Today” magazine recognized Bierdeman-Fike as one of the most influential social workers in the nation. In a 2007 article in that publication, she talked about her accomplishments of which she was most proud. She began by saying, “In my career spanning more than 38 years, I focused my direct treatment, supervisory, administrative, and teaching efforts on the most vulnerable persons and families afflicted with severe and persistent mental illness. I opposed the massive and indiscriminate deinstitutionalization of patients with mental illness, despite strong opposition from political, legal, and financial forces.”

She was recognized with awards many times for her achievements, including Maryville’s Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 1971. In 2005, she received the Maryville Dean’s Award from the School of Liberal Arts and Professional Programs (now the College of Arts and Sciences).

She is survived by her stepdaughter and family, Ruth Ann, Terry, Angel, Doug and Jeff Atkinson. She was preceded in death by her husband, Don Fike and stepdaughter Ellen Sue Williams. A memorial service was held Saturday, March 17, at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton.