Remembrance

What follows is a special remembrance of LaFrance Muldrow by good friend Judith Schagrin.

LaFrance grew up in Orlando, Florida.  After graduating from North Carolina A & T University – one of just over 100 historically black colleges and universities - with a degree in sociology she returned home, but quickly recognized that prospects for a job in social work for a woman of color were limited.  As a result, LaFrance relocated to New Jersey, where her work at a private Episcopalian child welfare agency whetted her appetite for helping others.  Two years later, in 1962, she moved to Baltimore with her then husband, and being a ‘career minded woman’ (her words, not mine!), began her lengthy career in public service, first at the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services.  By 1967, LaFrance had transferred to the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, and in 1973, applied to the University of Maryland School of Social Work for admission to the MSW program.

In LaFrance’s application to the School of Social Work, she wrote, “…I enjoy helping people and my experiences in this profession have been rewarding and gratifying.  At this time, I feel a need for professional training…(to) become more skilled and more professional…offering services to people.”  Throughout LaFrance’s life, she continued to value social work and professionalism, lifelong learning, and the opportunity to serve the community. 

LaFrance was committed to the belief that people can work together for a common cause.  As a result she participated in any number of community groups.  In the 60s, she was president of the Baltimore Chapter of Continental Societies, an organization whose mission was to improve the welfare of social and financial disadvantaged children, and a member of Jack and Jill of America, an African-American women’s organization dedicated to providing social, educational, and cultural opportunities to children.  In 1991, LaFrance pledged the graduate chapter of Delta Sigma Theta – a predominantly African-American sorority dedicated to public service - and was an active member until the time of her death.  She served on the Baltimore County Commission for Women, the Baltimore County Drug Free School Advisory Board, the Learning Task Group of the Visionary Panel for Better Schools, and the Baltimore County Career Connections Labor Market Team.  She was on the board of directors for the Boys Home Society of Baltimore, Inc., the Pro Bono Counseling Project, and the University of Maryland School of Social Worker’s Alumni Association.  At the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), she served in a number of different leadership roles, including interim director.  Early on, LaFrance recognized that legislative changes were necessary to better serve our clients, and her political activity included membership in the 10th District Democratic Club as well as advocacy through NASW and board membership on the PACE Committee.

After graduating from the School of Social Work in 1976, LaFrance continued to work at the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, until a promotional opportunity became available for a leadership position at the Montgomery Department of Health and Human Services.  Several years later, she accepted the position of Deputy Director of Baltimore County DSS, where she remained until her retirement in 2000.  Despite a busy schedule, as a lifelong learner she earned a Post Master’s Certificate in Social Administration and received training from the Child Welfare League of America Managed Care Institute and the New Executive Orientation and Leadership Training Program. 

After retirement, LaFrance continued her activity on boards and membership in community groups as well as volunteer work at her church, St. Marks on the Hill, in Pikesville.  She also enjoyed serving as an associate faculty member at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and an adjunct field instructor liaison for the University of Maryland School of Social Work.  As a field liaison, LaFrance was able to inspire the next generation of social workers, guiding graduate students to students to develop professional ethics, knowledge, and skills.   LaFrance’s active schedule, which also included travel here and abroad, left little time for the cancer diagnosis that came many years ago, an illness she told few about; rarely did she allow it to slow her down. 

A model for graciousness, dedication, hard work, and professionalism, LaFrance’s many commendations and awards were well-deserved.  In 1996, LaFrance was the recipient of the President’s Award from Delta Sigma Theta, and in 2004 she received special recognition from the sorority for her dedication and commitment in the area of social action.  In 2001, the Child Welfare League of America recognized LaFrance for her significant contribution to children and families, compassionate leadership, and help shaping and implementing national policies.  That same year, LaFrance received the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Award of Excellence and two years later, was chosen to receive the Rotary Club’s “Service Above Self Award.”  In 2004, LaFrance was honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter, and in 2006, she was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by the Daily Record. 

On a more personal note, on first meeting the woman I came to know as Frenchie, I was more than a bit intimidated.  Unlike my admittedly anti-authority and (according to my daughter anyhow…) frumpy self, LaFrance was always impeccably dressed, a stickler for policies and rules, and the consummate professional.  I soon learned, however, that LaFrance was also wise, warm, gracious, and kind.  She quickly put me at ease with her engaging personality, direct way of communicating, and unexpectedly irreverent sense of humor.  Knowing that my own child had no grandmother, LaFrance stepped in, traveling with us to a colleague’s home on the Eastern Shore for outings, meeting us at the BMA for children’s activities, coming to birthday parties, and attending every school graduation.   

Along with numerous devoted friends and colleagues, LaFrance is survived by her well-beloved son, Ackneil (Trey) Muldrow, III, a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld in New York City, and his wife, Dana, a Senior Manager in Public Relations at Deloitte Consulting.  She was “Grand Frenchie” to her two adored granddaughters, Carlyle, age 5, and Rory, 9 months.   Her parents, Arthur J. and Ruthie Kleckley, still residents of Orlando, Florida, also survive her. 

Help honor her memory with a gift to the LaFrance Muldrow Scholarship Fund.