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Former Stony Brook University Social Work Dean Ruth Brandwein receives NASW Lifetime Achievement Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has awarded Ruth A. Brandwein, PhD, MSW, a Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades of work advocating for children, the homeless, women and people of color and for training generations of social workers to be strong and effective community organizers. 

“Ms. Brandwein’s career is a stellar example of how the actions of a single social worker can serve as a spark to ignite others to change our society for the better,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “In every place she has endeavored – in communities, in academia or in government agencies – Ms. Brandwein has shown she is a voice for people who are often voiceless.” 

Each year, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) selects a social worker for this national award to celebrate a lifetime of achievement. In honoring the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, NASW recognizes the best social work values and accomplishments demonstrated in the social worker’s lifetime career. 

Ms. Brandwein, who is retired and lives in Sarasota, Fla., has proved to be a strong advocate for others no matter where she chose to work. 

In Seattle, she worked in a housing project with young mothers to support their children in sports competitions, started a Central Area School Council, and stopped a proposed federal highway from devastating their integrated, working class community.  

She became an assistant professor at Boston University, where she headed the planning, administration and community organization sequence and developed field placements in a labor union, settlement houses, the State Office for Children and the Department of Human Services. With a group of master’s level students, Ms. Brandwein developed one of the first social work courses in the nation that covered women in social work and social policy. 

She went on to become dean of Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare in New York, where she introduced evening and weekend classes in order to help working students, many of whom were older returning students, single mothers, African American or Latino. 

She introduced an international program and became a leader in the Long Island human services and social policy community. Ms. Brandwein was asked to head the Suffolk County New York Commission on Family Violence and was a member of the governor’s Mental Health Council. 

Brandwein took a leave of absence from Stony Brook to become commissioner of social services for Suffolk County, the largest county in New York State outside of New York City. While there she helped move families out of welfare motels and into support temporary housing and developed a program to keep at-risk children out of foster care.  

Even in retirement Brandwein has been active. She was chair of the NASW Legislative Committee and now chair of its PACE Committee. She is also active in several organizations, including chairing the Sarasota Community Alliance Legislative Advocacy Committee. 

“Ms. Brandstein is an example of what a social work leader should be – she is truly inspiring,” McClain said. “She has dedicated her career to not only helping people who are often marginalized but also inspiring new generations of social workers and working with NASW to promote the social work profession.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.