Philanthropists Ann Thor and Frances Wu were honored Oct. 21 by the California Social Welfare Archives for their lifelong commitment to improving social services.
Presenting Thor with the George D. Nickel Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, the organization’s president Esther Gillies said she “exemplifies what it means to give up one’s self in the service of others.”
For more than 50 years, Thor has served her community and dedicated herself to those less fortunate and in need.
She said her volunteerism started when she was an assistant housemother for the Episcopal Church Home for Children in South Pasadena. Thor has been married to Richard Thor, a 1958 graduate and former assistant dean of the USC School of Social Work, for 51 years and she credited him for her work.
“Being married to a wonderful social worker, I had no choice,” she said. “(His work) made me want to serve.”
Thor and her husband have been generous donors to the School of Social Work for years. In 2004, they endowed the Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor in Urban Social Development to create a lasting legacy of their friendship and support of the school.
Wu was presented the George D. Nickel Award for Outstanding Professional Services. School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn said Wu, the first Chinese American to receive a doctoral degree in social work from USC in 1974, is “famous” for her advocacy work for the Chinese elderly but holds many titles, including philanthropist and real estate developer.
Wu said although she has a degree in social work, all of her money was made as a developer.
“I didn’t do anything in social work … but I made a lot of money and most of it goes to USC,” she said. “It feels great.”
Wu has personally endowed the Frances Wu Scholarship Fund in the School of Social Work. The Frances Wu Chair in Social Welfare Policy and Services to the Chinese Elderly, the first chair named for a Chinese American at USC, was endowed in her honor by the Chinese American Golden Age Association.
The afternoon included a tribute to Frances Lomas Feldman, a pioneer in the field of social work, a USC faculty member for 36 years and the founder of the California Social Welfare Archives. She died Sept. 30 at the age of 95.
Established in 1979, the California Social Welfare Archives maintains one of the most extensive and complete collections of California social welfare history.
The volunteer-based group of social workers, librarians, archivists and other community leaders collects, preserves and makes available historically significant information that documents the emergence of social problems and the development of social welfare answers in California.