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KNOXVILLE –- When Debra Reagan’s 20-year-old son, Clint, died in August 2005, her colleagues in University of Tennessee College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) rallied around her.

Pictured are Jan Simek, representing the Chancellor’s office; Alan Chesney, executive director of UT Human Resources; Karen Sowers, dean of the College of Social Work; Debra and Alan Reagan; and Tom Baer of Compassionate Friends.
Now SWORPS’ sensitivity has won kudos from Compassionate Friends, an international, nonprofit, self-help group for families grieving the death of a child.

SWORPS was one of 65 employers across the country recognized this year for helping employees following the loss of a child. Only one other Tennessee company was recognized, AmSouth Bank in Nashville.

In selecting the honorees, Compassionate Friends considers company policies that reflect a compassionate attitude toward bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents. The group looks at whether companies grant additional time off beyond the typical three days, how flexible employers are in work assignments and job evaluation and how readily employers provide support services and time off so bereaved employees can seek counseling. The group also looks for other acts of compassion shown to bereaved employees.

“The ways in which I have been shown support are too numerous to remember,” Reagan, a research specialist, wrote in nominating the office. “At the time of his death, my co-workers provided food, cards, flowers and calls of support. An unbelievable number of them missed work to attend the burial.

“When I returned to work the support continued. Our office offers flexible hours. They encouraged me to take a walk or a break when needed. Someone was always there to listen when I needed to talk. They all pitched in to help with the workload.”

Reagan, of Seymour, also complimented the university’s bereavement leave policy, the Employee Assistance Program and the Human Resources Office.

This is the sixth year the Compassionate Employer awards have been given.

SWORPS, a unit of the College of Social Work, began in 1976. Its goal is to improve the quality of human services practice in Tennessee, the Southeast, and the nation for the benefit of human services workers, their agencies and their clients. The office has received more than $40 million in state, local and federal grants and contracts to support training, technical assistance and research projects.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,
Betsy DeGeorge, (865) 974-8638,