Skip to main content

Falck, Hans Siegfried (1923 – 2014)

Hans Siegfried Falck, (1923 – 2014)


Portrait of Hans S. Falck
Hans S. Falck
Photo: Courtesy Renate Forssmann-Falck

Hans Siegfried Falck was born in Hamburg, Germany on January 26, 1923. With his parents and two younger brothers he escaped from Germany on October 31, 1939, shortly before the German border was closed to Jews. The family fled by train to Rotterdam, and then by ship to the United States.  In 1943, Falck entered the U.S. Army, thereby gaining American citizenship. Because of his fluency in German, he worked for Military Intelligence in Europe. (Robertson, 2014)

In 1946, Falck returned to the United States and pursued an education under the G.I. Bill. Mr. Falck received his Bachelor of Arts from Case Western Reserve University in 1949, his Master of Arts from Syracuse University in 1950, and his Master of Social Work in 1953 from the University of Buffalo. In 1960, he received his Doctor of Philosophy from Syracuse University.

Recognized by the National Association of Social Workers as a Social Work Pioneer, Falck’s fields of special interest included Health Social Work, Medical Sociology, Philosophy of Science, problems of individualism, socialization, and group formation. He wrote about the relationship between psychoanalytic theory and social science theory (e.g., object- relations theory and social interaction), small group and organization theory, social group work and social casework, and social work in mental health.  (NASW, n.d.)

Author of Social Work: The Membership Perspective, Dr. Falck’s greatest contribution to the field was his development of “Membership Theory” and his study of its implications and consequences for social work practice. Membership Perspective theory regards the role of member (i.e., member of a group) as the fundamental interactive unit of social existence. (Falck, 1989) Falck’s work was deeply rooted in his understanding and commitment to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase which translates as  “repair the world.”

Dr. Falck was a past chapter president of NASW (St. Louis) and a founder of the Virginia Organization of Health Care Social Workers. In addition to serving on the Boards of Directors for ten organizations in five states, Dr. Hans Falck, was extremely active and involved at Virginia Commonwealth University where, as Professor of Social Work and Psychiatry, he was a faculty member in both the School of Social Work and the School of Medicine. At VCU, Falck served on numerous committees, including two terms as president of the University Senate. An internationally known scholar and thinker, Falck was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health of Great Britain and served the international professional community through his many research presentations and professional consultations abroad. (NASW, n.d.)

Dr. Falck was recognized in 1984 for contributions in which he received the highest honor bestowed by the Council on Social Work Education. He also was given a citation of appreciation for his record of exceptional service in social work education and for his contributions as Editor (1978-1984) of the Journal of Education for Social Work. The Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the Virginia Association for Social Work with Groups recognized him with an award in 1986 for “Outstanding Contributions to Social Work with Groups.” After his retirement from VCU in 1993, Dr. Falck was awarded the Richard Lodge Prize by Adelphi University in recognition for his valuable contributions to social work theory through his research, writing and teaching.  (NASW, n.d.) In 1994 he received the Hyman J. Weiner Award from the Society of Social Work in Health Care/American Hospital Administration, and in 1997 the Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health/Mental Social Work Practice. From 1995 to 1996 he was Visiting Professor at the Forschungsinstitut für Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften, Universität Siegen, Germany.  His work has been translated into both German and Italian.

From 2007 to 2012 the William Byrd Community House in Richmond held the Hans S. Falck  Lectures on Social Responsibility, inviting acclaimed speakers to discuss major social issues and challenge our thinking about how best to address the concerns of the Richmond community. (Falck lectures, n.d.)

Hans Falck retired as Professor Emeritus from the School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University in 1993, pursuing his intellectual interests until suffering a stroke in 2002. He continued to live in Richmond with his wife, Renate Forssmann-Falck, M.D., until his passing at the age of 91 on June 29, 2014. The Hans Falck Doctoral Scholarship in social work is awarded annually in his honor by Virginia Commonwealth University.


Selected Bibliography:

Carlton, T. O., H. S. Falck, B. Berkman (1985). The use of theoretical constructs and research data to establish a base for clinical social work in health settings. In: Social Work in Health Care 10, (2), S. 27-40.

Falck, H. S. (1988). Social Work. The Membership Perspective. New York: Springer.

Falck, H. S. (1987). Social and psychological care before and during hospitalization. In: Social Science & Medicine 25, (6), S. 711-720.

Falck, H. S. (1985). Das Membership-Prinzip in der Sozialarbeit. In: Studium und Praxis 39, S. 2-14.

Falck, H. S. (1984). The Courts, The Constitutional ‘Right to Treatment’ and The Psychiatric Hospital: Policy & Impact. In: Journal of International and Comparative Social Welfare 1, (1), S. 52-76.

Falck, H. S.: (1980). Aspects of the Sociology of Psychiatry. In: The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 7, (2), S. 219-235.

Falck, H. S. (1978). Crisis theory and social group work. In: Social Work With Groups 1, (1), S. 75-84.

Falck, H. S. (1978a). Social work in health settings. In: Social Work in Health Care 3, (4), S. 395-403.

Falck, H. S. (1977). The consultant as insider and change agent. The problem of boundaries in social systems. In: Administration in Mental Health 5, (1), S. 55-67.

Falck, H. S. (1963). The use of groups in the practice of social-work. In: Social Casework 44, (2), S. 63-67.


Burkhart Brückner, Robin Pape (2015): Falck, Hans Siegfried. In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie. Accessed April 13, 2017

Falck, Hans S. The Management of Membership: Social Group Work Contributions. Social Work Within Groups. 12(3), 1989. Accessed April 13, 2017

Hans S. Falck Lectures on Social Responsibility. Accessed April 13, 2017

Hans S. Falck (1949 – ). In: NASW Social Work Pioneers  Accessed April 13, 2017

Ph. D. Scholarships. Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. Accessed April 13, 2017

Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 1, 2014  Accessed April 13, 2017

Robertson, E. (2014). Hans S. Falck, 91, professor emeritus in the VCU School of Social Work and scholar, dies at 91. Accessed April 13, 2017


How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2017, April 13). Hans Siegfried Falck (1923 – 2014). Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from