Robert L. Caldwell Jr. ’82
B.A., Denison University
Citation awarded June, 2011
Robert’s career in social services has focused on family and community work, with the goal of cultivating a greater understanding of how race/class bias has become institutionalized and has contributed to keeping people on welfare. He also works to raise awareness of his conviction that our western orientation to church plays an “enabling” role in propagating the race and class divide in America and the church needs to reclaim her historic role in life-transforming reconciliation and unity.
He was executive director of Family First when it became one of the first faith-based social-work agencies in Ohio to receive government funding. Once it was a going concern, Robert became founding director of Family to Family, a family support co-op that teaches and promotes faith-based solutions to help resolve personal, family and economic problems faced by the urban poor and working class. The organization sponsored a Big Brother/Big Sister program for children of single-parent homes, support groups for single mothers, and individual care and counseling for adolescents in distress.
Robert developed Break Dividing Walls, offering workshops and consulting services to help businesses, churches, schools, social service agencies—and, by extension, the communities themselves—improve multiracial and multi-ethnic relations. He served as program coordinator of the R.O.W. T.E.A.M.S. project, a faith-based welfare-to-work program that won the 1997 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Service in the State of Ohio. He is also founder of the Faith-Based Partnership Initiative, an innovative community development effort seeking faith-based solutions to the problems faced by the urban poor.
In 1991, Robert, himself, moved into a then-notorious low-income apartment community on the east side of Columbus called Greenbrier, helped found TEACH (The Enrichment Association for Community Healing), and started Greenbrier Christian Fellowship, the first of three congregations he has pioneered over the years.In 2000, he relocated his wife, twin boys and two daughters to Weinland Park, a low-income neighborhood south of the Ohio State University campus area. The family lived out Robert’s convictions, pioneering a multi-racial, multi-ethnic community of faith called Mosaic.
For Denison, Robert has served as a Fellows volunteer and career advisor.