BETHANY, W.Va. – The West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has recognized Bethany College Professor Emerita Kathy Shelek-Furbee as the West Virginia Social Worker of the Year.

The annual award recognizes significant contributions in the field of social work and to West Virginia.

“It’s very humbling, and I’m very grateful to have received this honor. We all know that one is honored, but many contribute,” Shelek-Furbee said during a Dec. 15 digital ceremony conferring the honor. She noted that her colleagues were with her along the way.

“I’ve been doubly blessed both as a social worker and an educator that I’ve got to do two things that I really love to do a lot, and most people can’t say they get to do one,” she said.

Melanee Wigton Sinclair, chair of Bethany’s Social Work Department, nominated Shelek-Furbee for the honor and introduced her during the digital ceremony.

“I believe the highest honor any professional can receive is recognition by their peers,” Sinclair said. “Tonight’s recipient certainly deserves that recognition for her dedication to the profession through her 45 years of service. My challenge here tonight is to try to summarize those 45 years in the profession in my allotted 3 minutes.”

Shelek-Furbee joined the Bethany faculty in 1984, became director of the social work program in 2001, and chair in 2007. Under her guidance, more than 200 social workers have graduated and have contributed to their field and their communities in a variety of roles. She also advised students in Bethany’s KALON leadership program for more than 20 years.

“Professor Shelek-Furbee’s students and graduates speak of her firm but compassionate manner and insistence on attention to detail,” Bethany Provost and Dean of Faculty Joe Lane said. “She has led both in her teaching and by her example, inspiring hundreds of young people to become great social workers and citizens. I cannot imagine a stronger candidate for the West Virginia Social Worker of the Year.”

Shelek-Furbee served four years as Bethany’s associate provost and stepped in as acting chair of the education department. In the months before her retirement, she served on the steering committee that prepared Bethany faculty for its transition to remote learning as the COVID-19 emergency swept the country.

Bethany has recognized Shelek-Furbee with numerous accolades, including the John R. Taylor Award for Leadership in the Liberal Arts (2019); the T.A. Abbott Award for Faculty Excellence (2015); the President’s Award for Excellence (2010); and the James E. Allison Award for Excellence in Teaching (2006).

Her impact on the social work landscape, however, extends beyond the Bethany College campus.

In 2008, she introduced the Bethany College Symposium to provide continuing education opportunities to professionals in the Northern Panhandle. The low-cost one and two-day training allowed social workers and nurse to complete continuing education and connect with other local professionals.

For the last 18 years, she has served as the leader of FOCUS, a family violence prevention program, at the Wheeling Young Women’s Christian Association. In that role, she designs and facilitates an anger management group for women.

She is a member of the Continuing Education Committee for the Altenheim Resource and Referral Center. She also has served as a board member for Family Connections, St. John’s Home for Children, and the National Association for Social Workers.

Born and raised in Wheeling, Shelek-Furbee received her Master of Social Work degree from West Virginia University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Alderson-Broadus College. She served on the Bethany College faculty for more than 30 years before retiring in May.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.