Kerby, William J. (William Joseph), 1870-1936

Alternative names
Birth 1870-02-20
Death 1936-07-27

Biographical notes:

Kerby was a sociologist, writer, editor, and organizer of Catholic social work. He was born in Lawler, Iowa in 1870 to Daniel and Ellen (Rochford) Kerby. He studied for the priesthood at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, and was ordained in Dubuque on 21 December 1892. He obtained the licentiate in theology at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1894 and was sent by CUA to Europe in 1895 to prepare to teach the new subject of Sociology at the university when he returned. He studied at Bonn and Berlin universities and received the doctorate in social and political science from Louvain in 1897. He would head the Sociology Department at CUA from 1897 until 1934 and was recognized as a pioneer in the field. His interpretation of sociology was strongly influenced by the welfare of the poor and his major impact was in social service, which was not yet distinguished from sociology. It is said that Kerby deserves the title of founder of scientific social work among Catholics in the United States. He earned this by his long years of teaching at CUA and nearby Trinity College and with his activities in local charitable agencies. He was a principal founder of the National Conference of Catholic Charities (NCCC) in 1910 and, a decade later, the first Catholic school for social workers, the National Catholic School for Social Service (NCSSS). He edited the Saint Vincent de Paul Quarterly,1911-1917, and published numerous books and articles with an ideal of social service that was Catholic in spirit and scientific in operation. He was made a domestic prelate in 1934 and died in 1936.

From the description of The William Joseph Kerby papers. 1896-1936. (Catholic University of America). WorldCat record id: 175246209


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  • Social service--History--20th century


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  • United States (as recorded)