It’s been a good year for Jean Tucker Mann. In the past three months, she’s won two of the field of social work’s biggest awards. The University of Maryland School of Social Work presented Mann with the Dean’s Medal during its convocation ceremony in May. And in March, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter. But the awards aren’t symbols that her career is over.
“To me it doesn’t say fold up your arms and put up your legs,” Mann said. “To me, it says you know how to do some things, you’ve been recognized for skills, so you continue to use them.”
Born and raised in Baltimore, Mann started her career as a Baltimore City Public School teacher over 30 years ago. She taught in a school in which many of her students lacked food, running water and electricity at home. After six years, she left on maternity leave and never returned to the classroom. Still, she carried her teaching experience with her. It was her teaching experience that allowed Mann to find her true passion.
“I just kind of found as I worked with those kids, my heart was really in dealing with all of the poverty issues,” she said. “I found myself dealing with the family issues, the community issues. That’s why I decided I was going to move in an area that would let me deal with that exclusively.”
Since then, Mann said every job she has taken allowed her to build a career in human services. After her maternity leave, she worked at the Maryland State Department of Juvenile Services for 11 years, beginning as a juvenile counselor and ending as the department regional direct of Baltimore City. She then worked with Mayor William Donald Schaefer for five years as the department director for human development, and then for former Gov. Harry Hughes for seven years as a liaison with the state department of human resources.
Finally, after traveling the country with the Child Welfare League for four years, she joined the University of Maryland Medical Center.
“I went to the University of Maryland in 1972 while I was with juvenile services and I got a master’s in social work in 1974,” she said. “When I got to the University of Maryland in 1995, I was the director of social work and human services.”
Out of her 10 years at the UMMC, Mann is most proud of the work she and her colleagues started in 2000 to develop the Palliative Care Program, a family-centered program to help chronically-ill patients.
“We did not have such a service at the hospital at that time,” she said. “By the time I retired, we had a full time team and over 500 patients annually. It’s pretty cool.”
Mann retired from full-time work in 2005 but maintains her private practice in psychotherapy in which she counsels individuals, couples, and palliative care patients.
Having been a single, divorced mother with two sons for 17 years, Mann said she is able to draw from her personal experiences as she counsels her clients.
Furthermore, because she remarried a man with three of his own children, she is able to talk with her clients about family relationships and relationship building.
“That experience in my family gave me an insight into dealing with young women, young single women and pregnant women,” she said. “We can’t forget that there are needs in the African-American community that we can’t walk away from. I always mentor young people. I think we have an obligation to do this.”
Mann earned her undergraduate degree from Coppin State University, which she applied to after she said Towson University reversed their initial decision to accept her based on her grades. She said the decision was changed when the school learned she had attended one of Baltimore’s Black high schools.
“When I look back and look at the challenges I’ve faced, I have been so fortunate,” she said. “I have had people in my life who have helped me. I realize how important reaching back and helping people is.”