MILDRED SIKKEMA / 1908-2005
Teacher pioneered social work
After retiring from UH, she helped improve education in her field
Mildred Sikkema worked to benefit Hawaii's students for decades beyond her retirement as a professor in the University of Hawaii School of Social Work.
She was an organizer of the annual Civic Forum on Public Schools, which brings parents and other concerned citizens, business leaders and legislators together with teachers and state Department of Education administrators to discuss ways to improve public education.
"We can, through shared responsibility, create a learning ohana in which students thrive as socially, civically and politically responsible citizens able to create and sustain a democratic society that empowers all its members," Sikkema wrote in the organization's April newsletter.
She died at her Honolulu home Dec. 14 at the age of 97.
Sikkema was recognized as the 2005 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation, said state Rep. Lyla Berg (D, Hahaione-Aina Haina), director of the forum. The national organization lists her among the pioneers in social work.
Sikkema had worked in Chicago and New York before she came to Hawaii in 1943 to organize a mental health clinic at Queen's Hospital. She later worked in the former Department of Public Instruction as assistant director of the Division of Pupil Guidance.
She returned to New York, where she was executive secretary of the National Association of Schools of Social Work and the Council on Social Work Education.
In the 1960s, she joined the UH faculty and continued with the School of Social Work until her retirement in 1973. She then spent 10 years helping schools of social work in seven Asian countries develop curricula and methods reflecting their own cultures under a grant from the federal government and the International Association of Schools of Social Work. She was a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong, where she directed a cross-cultural learning project with UH graduate students in social work.
She co-authored two books with Cecil Dotts, retired UH education professor.
Sikkema was born in Garden Plain, Ill. She earned a bachelor's degree at University of Chicago, a master's degree in social work at Smith College and a doctorate at the University of Chicago.
She was a close friend of the late Clorinda Low Lucas, a leader in establishing social work programs in Hawaii government, and her family. She was godmother to Nainoa Thompson, Lucas' grandson. She is survived by the Thompson family and by nieces on the mainland.
In accordance with her wishes, there will be no memorial service. Memorial contributions may be made to the Civic Forum on Public Schools, P.O. Box 240335, Honolulu 96824.