March 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 12

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    Former SSA Dean Rosenheim coined ‘juvenile nuisance’

    Margaret Rosenheim, former Dean of the School of Social Service Administration and a pioneering scholar who combined training in law with an interest in child welfare, died Monday, Feb. 2 in San Francisco. She was 82.

    Rosenheim wrote and edited numerous books and articles about juvenile justice and child policy, including A Century of Juvenile Justice; Justice for the Child: The Juvenile Court in Transition; Pursuing Justice for the Child; Early Parenthood and Coming of Age in the 1990s; and Children Harmed and Harmful: Risk in the Public World of Childhood.

    “Peggy Rosenheim was a woman who forged an uncommon career long before feminism became popular,” said Dolores Norton, the Samuel Deutsch Professor in SSA. “Hers was a life with noteworthy public features of scholarship, teaching and family life. Characteristics that describe her best were her sense of propriety, her intelligence, her social grace and sense of place, and the dignity she bestowed on all.”

    Rosenheim was among the first faculty members to receive the Norman Maclean Faculty Award from the University, which is given to emeritus and senior faculty for outstanding contributions to teaching and the student experience on campus.

    “Since joining the faculty in 1950, Rosenheim has distinguished herself. Through the development of her own interdisciplinary teaching, she played an instrumental role in broadening the SSA curriculum,” read the 1997 Maclean citation. “Rosenheim has consistently encouraged her students and colleagues to think broadly about the role of teaching and research in the larger University community.”

    Penny Johnson, Dean of Students in SSA, said, “Professor Rosenheim inspired many students through her teaching in both the master’s and doctoral programs. Her enormous commitment to SSA and its students was evident in her generous commitment to working with students toward effective social policy and social change.”

    Rosenheim, who received a J.D. from the Law School in 1949, also taught courses in the Law School as well as to undergraduates.

    She was named the Helen Ross Professor of Social Welfare Policy in 1975, and served as Dean of SSA from 1978 to 1983. Rosenheim also directed the Center for the Study of Welfare Policy at SSA from 1969 to 1972. She retired in 1996.

    As a board member, she advised a number of public policy organizations dealing with juvenile justice, and she consulted the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice from 1966 to 1967.

    Rosenheim advocated a system of non-judicial interventions to deal with troublesome adolescents and coined the expression “juvenile nuisance”—a term to describe non-serious offenders who become victims in the juvenile justice system. She said delinquents who commit petty theft or run away should receive social service assistance, rather than be assigned to the juvenile courts, where they would be stigmatized as criminals.

    Rosenheim encouraged the creation of neighborhood panels of lay people to deal with minor juvenile offenses, and with Chicago Lawyer Alex Elson, she recommended the system in an article published in 1965 in the American Bar Association Journal. They wrote that similar systems in New Jersey and Washington had proven effective.

    In 1970, she and Eugene Durman co-authored a report to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, titled “Normal Needs and Unconventional Helping Organizations,” which looked at social service techniques of self-help groups, policy, the mass media and others.

    Throughout her career, Rosenheim and her late husband Edward Rosenheim, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor in English Language & Literature, were active members of the campus community.

    Together they taught a course, “Dependency and Disrepute,” on society’s perceptions of the disadvantaged. The Rosenheims contributed their perspectives on how literature portrayed the poor and how stereotypes, which had developed through these portrayals, would influence public policy and treatment by the courts.

    The couple, known around Hyde Park as Ned and Peggy, met during her first year of law school and married in 1947. Edward Rosenheim, an internationally recognized authority on the life and works of Jonathan Swift, diedin 2005.

    “As dean, Peggy led the school through a difficult time with grace, an effective collaborative spirit and an integrity that marked all of her work,” said William Pollak, Associate Professor Emeritus in SSA.

    A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Margaret Rosenheim studied at Wellesley College before coming to Chicago to study law.

    Survivors include sons Daniel, James and Andrew, three grandsons and two granddaughters.