Joseph Eaton was professor of social work, committed Zionist

Joseph Eaton was professor of social work, committed Zionist

Joseph W. Eaton
Joseph W. Eaton

Joseph W. Eaton, founder of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work doctoral program, died Monday, Oct. 15. He was 93.

Eaton was born Sept. 28, 1919, in Nuremberg, Germany, as Josef Wechsler. Ordered to leave high school in Berlin at the age of 13 because he was Jewish, he immigrated without his parents to the United States, where he was able to complete his education through the German-Jewish Children’s Aid program.

Eaton fought against Germany during World War II, changing his name from Wechsler in an effort to protect his parents, who were then living in Amsterdam under Nazi control. Nevertheless, his parents and grandparents were ultimately murdered by Nazis.

Following his service in World War II, Eaton received his bachelor’s degree in rural sociology from Cornell University, and completed his doctorate at Columbia University.

He married Helen Goodman in 1948. The couple had four children: David, Seth, Jonathan and Deborah.

Eaton began his long and distinguished career at the University of Pittsburgh in 1960, serving as professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, chairing the Department of Economic and Social Development Sequence, directing the Social Science Unit at the School of Public Health and teaching in the School of Social Work. He served as professor emeritus from 1990 until his death.

Eaton also had professorships at UCLA, Western Reserve University and Wayne State University. He is listed in “Who’s Who in the World” for his published research and academic career.   

 “He was a great man, and lived a very productive life,” said Dr. Morton Coleman, a colleague at the University of Pittsburgh. “He was an outstanding thinker and teacher, and he was very committed to his Jewish heritage. I had great respect for him.”.

He was also a committed Zionist, said his friend, Cheryl Moore, local AIPAC chair.

“Every year, even 2012, he would schlepp to D.C. for Policy Conference and he attended every single event we had in Pittsburgh,” she said.  

In addition to his wife and children, Eaton is survived by six grandchildren.

Funeral and burial were held Tuesday, Oct. 16, in Prince George, Md.

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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