Social Work Pioneers Host Sixth Annual Meeting

Mark BattleFormer NASW Executive Director Mark Battle was recognized with a retrospective of his life and work in social work.

The NASW Social Work Pioneers® hosted their sixth annual meeting in Washington in October, featuring two keynote speakers and the recognition of several people who help make the program a success.

The morning keynote was given by Pioneer Nancy Humphreys, a past president of NASW and founder and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

Her speech was titled, “The American Dream: Is it Obtainable and Sustainable in the Second Decade of the 21st Century?”

“Social workers have been talking about the growing gap between the rich and poor almost from the very earliest signs of it in the mid-1970s,” she said. “What is new is the degree and depth of the problem, which has been exacerbated by the dramatic economic problems.”

Humphreys added that one reason social workers need to pay attention to the needs of the declining middle class is that this group is facing new struggles and social workers can help the middle class cope with shrinking resources and escalating needs.

“Such persons and communities struggle over the need to accept outside help while trying to cope with the downward spiral and fears about the future,” she said.

Humphreys noted the annual meeting held at the Cosmos Club drew a record turnout of more than 110 attendees. “I thought it was a very nice gathering and the amount of cumulative experience in that room was very impressive,” she said.

Pioneers from around the country joined NASW staff and leaders as well as local deans, faculty and students from the Howard University School of Social Work and Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service.

The afternoon keynote, “The Role of Social Work in Helping Individuals Become the Architects of their Futures,” was given by Pioneer Jeanette Takamura, dean of the Columbia University School of Social Work.

Recognizing the dedicated efforts of those who support the Pioneers program was also part of the day’s activities.

Honored at the gathering was Pioneer Mark Battle, who received the NASW Foundation Outstanding Pioneer Leadership Award. Battle, a former NASW executive director, was instrumental in the founding of the Pioneer program, along with the late Ruth Knee, in the early 1990s. He stepped down as co-chair of the Pioneer Steering Committee in 2010.

Battle was recognized for his work through a retrospective delivered by his friend and NASW colleague, Pioneer Robert Cohen. Pioneer Cudore Snell, dean of the Howard University School of Social Work, presented a resolution to Battle from the school. In addition, Pioneer Richard English offered a toast and Pioneers Jack Hansan, Bernice Harper, and Kenneth Carpenter also presented mementos and recollections in honor of Battle’s work. It was announced that the new co-chair is Pioneer Jesse Harris.

The NASW Foundation recognized Kenneth Carpenter with the Outstanding Pioneer Volunteer Award for his continued efforts to enhance and improve the NASW Legacy and Pioneer programs. Carpenter’s extensive work to develop and maintain biographies of the Pioneers listed on the NASW Foundation website has proven to be a valuable asset to the program, said Robert Carter Arnold, director of the NASW Foundation.

Arnold said Carpenter devotes his time to research the biographies from a variety of resources. The profiles are a popular Internet search topic, receiving 400,000 views in the last two years, Arnold noted.

“The biographies are a key way that we can honor, educate and inspire the profession,” Arnold said.

In addition, Carpenter set up exhibits at the event that displayed pictures of previous Pioneer annual meetings.

Among those who were thanked for their contributions for the event were Bernice Harper, chair of the program planning committee, and Patricia McDougall-Matthews, administrative secretary to the Dean of Howard University School of Social Work, who took photographs.