We are saddened by the passing of Emeritus Professor Maria Sardiñas on Easter Sunday. Ms. Sardiñas was born in Matanzas, Cuba in 1925. Her undergraduate degree was from the University of Habana, Cuba, where she studied Chemistry and Medical Social Work. She obtained her MSW in 1957 from Columbia University. Her thesis, “The Mexican Immigrant: Implications for Social Services” was a seminal piece at the time as there was no literature in this area.
In the 1960s Ms. Sardiñas worked for the Mental Health Department of the State of California, one of a paucity of bilingual workers in San Diego. During this time she became a major leader in Trabajadores de la Raza, San Diego, a national network of Spanish-speaking social workers organized by Dr. Juan Ramos of the National Institute of Mental Health. As an SDSU field instructor she mentored and inspired the next generation of social work leaders. This included Mateo Camarillo whom she advised in organizing a group of mothers in San Ysidro to collaborate with UCSD on building a health clinic. It is the San Ysidro Health Clinic of today.
Ms. Sardiñas joined the faculty at SDSU School of Social Work in 1968 and retired in 1989, having taught hundreds of social workers in the mental health arena. As a national advocate for persons with mental illness, she developed the course, “Psycho-Social Rehabilitation for the Chronically Mentally Ill”, the first course of its kind for any School of Social Work in California.
She served on the Mental Health Advisory Board of San Diego, advocating for critical changes to services provided for those with mental health issues. Professor Sardiñas was the recipient of numerous awards and acknowledgements, including from the National Association of Social Work and the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in 2008. See http://socialworkhallofdistinction.usc.edu/honorees/maria-sardinas/
The Maria Sardiñas Wellness Recovery Center in San Ysidro, a program of the Community Research Foundation which she helped to develop, was named in her honor. While she impacted hundreds of her students, she had a major imprint on the Mexican American community, serving as a role model to young Latino social workers and promoting social justice as a board member of the Chicano Federation. She was instrumental in the establishment of an endowment fund at SDSU in her name for the ongoing training for students, community professionals, clients, and families in the area of mental health.
Dr. Anita Harbert, School Director for many years, stated, “Maria Sardiñas dedicated her life to the plight of the mentally ill in this country. She championed their cause at the local, state and national levels and was nationally recognized for her efforts on their behalf. She was an early proponent for the adoption of the Psycho-social Rehab model of intervention and instrumental in the SDSU School of Social Work becoming one of the first Schools to incorporate this content into its curriculum. She was a mentor to many in the mental health professional community, giving tirelessly of her time and energy.”
Services are being arranged. If you wish to contribute in her honor to the Maria Sardiñas Behavioral Health Endowment Fund, please go to: http://campaign.sdsu.edu/Sardinas