Alfred Kahn, Pioneer and Professor, Passes

Alfred KahnAlfred Kahn taught at Columbia University for 57 years.

NASW Pioneer® Alfred J. Kahn died on Feb. 13, 2009, in Hackensack, N.J. He was 90.

Kahn, who served two terms on the NASW Board of Directors, taught at the Columbia University School of Social Work for 57 years.

He was known as a one-man watchdog who monitored the social services offered by the city and state of New York, according to a New York Times obituary. He was a longtime consultant to the Citizens' Committee for Children, for which he wrote dozens of reports on matters such as truancy, children's courts and child-guidance programs, the article stated.

Kahn's efforts were also far-reaching across the U.S.

The NASW Foundation noted that Kahn sought to develop new and improved models of social services. Besides being a teacher, he was an author and consultant to many voluntary and governmental organizations. He paid particular attention to how programs developed in other countries could be useful in the U.S.

Kahn received his master's degree in social work in 1946 from Columbia University School of Social Work and his doctorate of Social Welfare in 1952 from Columbia University. He was a faculty member of the School of Social Work at Columbia University beginning in 1947. His areas of expertise included delinquency, services for children, mental health, and social policy and planning. Kahn consulted federal, state and local agencies as well as voluntary organizations and foundations that focused on planning of social services, income maintenance, child welfare related programs, international collaboration and social policy. He was national chairman for the Division of Practice and Knowledge of NASW for six years.

He was the member of special panels at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. Kahn also authored a series of major studies and reports that dealt with social planning, social services, delinquency and community planning for children. His work was highlighted in journals in the U.S. and abroad about social planning, social welfare research, the development of social work knowledge and community of mental health.

He authored the book, "Planning Community Services for Children in Trouble," in 1963. He published two companion volumes on the theory and practice of social planning and studies in social policy and planning in the late 1960s.

Kahn also worked with the Department of Health Education and Welfare, the State Department, United Nations, and various foreign governments. In 1967, he was the U.S. participant and rapporteur for the U.N.'s "Expert Group on Social Policy and Level of Living in the Nation" and in 1969 for the U.N.'s "Expert Group on Training Social Welfare Personnel for Development Planning."

Kahn continued to travel, write and critique the status quo of welfare services during his semi-retirement.

Get more information: NASW Foundation.