Mary ‘Molly’ Hancock

Good golly!  Ms. Molly, is no longer with us… the world won’t be the same without her.  Mary “Molly” Hancock passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve 2017, a little more than a month shy of her 102nd birthday. Her son Peter wrote the wonderful obituary which is attached.

Molly came to Sudbury to join the School of Social Work in 1975. Prior to this she had worked for 25 years as a social worker for the Children’s Aid Society in St. Catherines ultimately becoming the Family Services Department Head.  Molly was proud to say that she pursued her social work degrees while working, first completing her MSW then her BSW. The School of Social Work at the University of Toronto had invited interested candidates to attend its MSW programme as non-degree students. Afterwards, Molly enrolled in and completed the BSW programme. She then successfully petitioned the University to recognize her MSW studies. A typical example of Molly being innovative and getting things done.

Although Molly was passionate about her career in child welfare, she found her “true” calling in teaching . She just loved it! She came to Laurentian at a time when the School of Social Work was still a young programme, having opened its doors in 1967.   Her colleagues were a mixture of the “old guard” and the “newbies” and, as one can imagine, this created certain tensions and conflicts. Molly was called upon to assume the position of Director of the School. Thanks to her leadership and the respect she commanded, she was able to navigate the School through these stormy times.

Her contributions to the School and her qualities as a professor were recognized by the University  in 1986 when she was awarded an Honourary Doctorate. The School of Social Work also established a bursary fund in her name; the Dr.Molly Hancock Bursary.

Molly was well respected by her colleagues and much appreciated by her students. Had it not been for the compulsory retirement requirements of “65 and out”, we all know that she would have spent much less than 36 years as a retiree.

Although officially retired from full employment at Laurentian, her love of teaching persisted. She carried on teaching  part-time in the School’s Distance Education Programme which, as you recall, was really “distant”.  Distance Education at that time meant driving from Sudbury to Timmins, Kirkland Lake, North Bay, Huntsville, and other communities in Northeastern Ontario, not sitting in front a computer screen and teaching on line. Molly not only enjoyed the teaching but the driving as well. It gave her a chance to explore the beautiful landscapes of our northern  region.

Molly not only continued but she in fact increased her community involvement in advocating on behalf of children and women’s rights. As Peter mentions in the obituary, Molly had “a life-long dedication to social justice, civil rights, feminism, the trade union movement and social democratic politics”. Her advocacy work was recognized in 2000 by the NDP  when they awarded her the Agnes McPhail Woman of the year award.

Along with her advocacy work, Molly established a private practice  during her “retirement” , which focused predominantly on the needs of women.

Molly’s ability to teach and inspire others led to frequent invitations to be a keynote speaker, both locally and nationally. The Canadian Association of Social Workers recognized her life long social work career by granting her the Social Workers’ Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

Again, during this “retirement” period, Molly published her book Principles of Social Work Practice: A Generic Practice Approach (1997).

Her active commitment to the practice of social work throughout her life and particularly so in her “ retirement years” is a testament to the fact that she did not work as a social worker, she was a social worker!

This is a brief overview of what Molly “did” – some of her accomplishments, awards and honours. But most importantly, Molly was truly remarkable for the person she was. She was passionate, dedicated, held firm views and was a valued friend and colleague.


HANCOCK, Mary R. ‘Molly’ – 1916-2017 Peacefully at Finlandia Village, Sudbury, on Christmas Eve and just six weeks shy of her 102nd birthday. Molly came to Canada in 1940, evacuated from war-time England with her young son and daughter. Welcomed by the generous Moyer family in the Niagara Peninsula, she became a social worker with the Children’s Aid Society in St. Catharines. Her passion for child welfare, a vital theme throughout her life, was developed in this period. During the years that followed, she gained MSW and BA degrees in that order. Molly had a gift for teaching and scholarship and was always grateful to Laurentian University for offering her, in 1975, an appointment in their new School of Social Work in Sudbury. She taught there for nearly ten years, served as its Acting Director when needed, co-authored an important text-book, and was lauded with an Honorary Doctorate on her retirement. For some years thereafter she conducted a private practice. Born in London in 1916, Molly lived through the turmoil and tragedies of the twentieth century. (These included her marriage – a casualty of WWII.) Her vigorous response was a life-long dedication to social justice: civil rights, feminism, the trade union movement, and social democratic politics were among her many causes. A member of the CCF from the 1940’s, she remained a force in the Sudbury NDP for many years. In 2000, Molly was named Agnes McPhail Woman of the Year. Her strong advocacy was always mellowed by a sense of humour – “my beatification” she called the Hon Doc ceremony at Laurentian; a love of travel, which took her hiking in the Himalayas; music and theatre – she performed character roles on stage in the early years of the Shaw Festival. And there were periodic enthusiasms such as photography or ethnic cooking. Throughout she maintained a tinge of lingering British propriety, even when marching with a sign. Always there was good talk with good friends, and particularly with her family, which included five grandchildren and their spouses, six great-grandchildren, and three generations of nieces and nephews in the U.K. Her eloquent readings of classic British nursery rhymes will live on, as will her capacity for uproarious laughter and delight. During her years in Sudbury, Molly developed a deep affinity with Northern Ontario – its people, their strong values and its rugged terrain. She came to regard the Canadian Shield as a personal homeland. A landscape framing her own spirit of independence. Among her final instructions she asked that her ashes be cast from a suitable peak near Sudbury. The family thanks the staff of Southwind, where Molly lived so comfortably in her later years, and of Finlandia Village where she finally let go. Cremation has been arranged by the Co-Operative Funeral Home in Sudbury. A celebration of Molly’s life will be held later this year. Donations if desired may be made to the Dr. Molly Hancock Bursary Fund at Laurentian University. Condolences @