Alumnus of the Year 2017

April 7, 2017
Alumnus 2017 photo

Greg Adam's story began in small town Missouri, outside St. Louis, the second of four boys. Greg came to Baylor as an undecided major thinking he would do church-related work. During his sophomore year, he was advised to take a career-decision workshop which revealed he should find a career which would “make a difference.”

With that thought in mind, Greg set up a meeting with Dr. Preston Dyer to learn about social work, and he realized the more he learned, the more he thought it just fit. Greg ended up double-majoring in social work and religion, graduated in 1985, went on to earn his MSW from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and has been “making a difference” ever since.

"I like to have meaningful things to do and to have movement, always moving toward a goal or something new," Greg said. "I am often drawn to topics which are challenging to discuss ... death and dying, politics, race relations, LGBTQ issues, and their intersections with spirituality."

Greg currently lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and serves as the program coordinator for Good Mourning, a grief support and outreach program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. His position allows him to create space for those who are grieving, those facing serious illness, and those impacted by suicide, serving clients of all ages: children, teens, and adults. For Greg, issues of grief and loss are a crossroads for both social work and religion and spirituality, places where people are challenged to find meaning and a way to live in health. Not only does he serve in this sacred space for patients and clients, but he also provides bereavement support to staff at the hospital.

"Because of both personal and professional experiences, there is a special place in me for those impacted by suicide," Greg added. "I also feel drawn to the needs of those historically marginalized due to their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity for the same reasons I am drawn to grief and loss."

For Greg, he believes these issues challenge meaning and ways to speak. He often finds, as with grief and loss, that the more he opens up to clients, the more experiences and opportunities for learning come.

"As a person of privilege in our culture—white, male, straight, cisgender, Christian—I feel a responsibility to work toward a world with less of a burden of privilege for some, burden for others," Greg said. "On the LGBTQ front, I feel especially for children who struggle for acceptance from family members and for families who struggle to respond in loving ways. I have seen this struggle in my own family and that has deepened my pull to these issues. The higher risk of suicide in this population overlaps with my work and experiences with grief, loss, and suicide prevention."

In addition to his work at the Children's Hospital, Greg also serves as an adjunct professor in the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Graduate School of Social Work. In 2014, he was named Community Faculty Member of the Year. In the past, he has worked in palliative care services, pediatric oncology social work, residential treatment centers, and psychiatric social work at the VA. Greg was named the Social Worker of the Year by the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Workers in 2001, and the Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers, Arkansas Chapter, in 2005.

Greg is married to Syd Gibson, his wife of 30 years, also a Baylor grad, and they have two grown children, Noah and Lora. They all share a passion for service to others. Lora has a special interest in the needs of immigrants in Latin America and is working on her master's degree in public administration. Syd trains teachers all over the state on how to improve education for special needs students. Noah is currently attending Hendrix College with plans to attend grad school majoring in political science and music.

Anne Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Greg believes the same.

"In my experience, almost all people want to love and be loved, want to feel secure, want to feel like they matter and want to feel proud of their lives," Greg said. "There are many ways these good wants are warped and corrupted, but in general, people keep striving, over and over. This fits my spiritual perspectives, too ... part of being created and being created in the image of the divine. I believe that in the end, love, God, life gets the last say. 'Love bats last' is how Anne Lamont says it, and I agree. I truly believe in putting values into action because good intentions are not enough."

By Nikki Wilmoth