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NASW Mourns Loss of Past President Mildred “Mit” Joyner

headshot of mit joyner

Joyner led social work organizations with unrivaled passion and a commitment for social justice

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Association of Social Workers is devastated by the passing of Mildred "Mit" Joyner, DPS, MSW, BSW, LCSW, who served as president of the organization from July 2020 through June 2023. We offer our condolences and support to her husband, daughters, grandchildren and all who love her.

Over a remarkable career, President Joyner served every major social work association in various volunteer leadership roles and mentored thousands of professionals across the country. A proud Howard University and Central State University HBCU graduate, she established scholarship funds for social work students of color, showcased emerging leaders in the profession, and celebrated the contributions of numerous unsung pioneers in social work.

In her most recent Social Work Advocates column Joyner wrote, “My advice to all members is to please commit to reading the code of ethics yearly. Some social workers seem to forget the purpose of social work, often placing personal values over professional values.” 

During her term as president, NASW reviewed its policies, procedures, and levels of access to create a more just, diverse, and inclusive environment. The Association increased public awareness of the social work role in promoting social justice, addressing trauma, and improving mental health and well-being for all communities. 

Joyner was also enthusiastic about increasing member engagement with NASW and uplifting the voices of diverse members of the profession, including younger social workers, social workers of color and social workers who are LGBTQIA2S+. And she encouraged social workers to get involved in NASW leadership and members to participate in the association’s elections.

President Joyner created the Facebook “Essential Chats with Mit” series — 23 online forums that examined social justice through a social work lens. And earlier this year, she hired a new CEO to ensure NASW remains forward-facing and focused on social justice advocacy.

“NASW has a responsibility to prepare and assist all social workers in their duty to eliminate systemic racism and achieve liberation for all racial and ethnic groups; serve as a major disruptor and take deliberate actions against the uprising hate of the LGBTQIA2S+ community; protect, uplift, advance, and advocate for reproductive rights; promote a fair, livable wage; and ensure pay equity for all social workers across our nation,” she wrote recently.

Joyner led NASW during the global pandemic and the nation’s racial reckoning. Her advocacy on voting rights expanded NASW’s visibility and impact during the 2020 and 2022 elections and created new connections with the Biden-Harris administration.

“President Joyner was an extraordinary role model in teaching, leading, and community activism for more than 30 years, focusing on the areas of gerontology and multicultural issues. She served in multiple leadership positions in the largest social work organizations, including NASW, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). Mit represented the social work profession domestically and internationally with undeniable passion, grace, and strength,” says NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW. “Our profession has lost one of its brightest stars.”

A lifelong Pennsylvania resident, President Joyner began her career as a child welfare worker in the Chester County Children, Youth, and Families Agency.  She then held leadership positions at West Chester University School of Social Work for more than 25 years, establishing the first MSW program in the Pennsylvania state system of higher education.

She also served as board chair of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national education and support organization, and as board chair of the Chester County Food Bank. She served on the boards of the NASW Foundation and NASW Assurance Services, Inc. and was the first Black woman to serve on the board of directors for DNBFIRST, a community bank.

“Mit was an absolute positive force in social work and a wonderful person. My thoughts are with her family and colleagues,” said Joan Davis-Whelan, MSW, RSW, President of the Canadian Association of Social Workers and President, North America Region of the International Federation of Social Work. Joyner was also the President and Vice President of the IFSW North America region.

In 2010, Joyner was an invited presenter at the Congressional briefing for the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.  In March 2011, she received the BPD Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2013 was named a Social Work Pioneer by the NASW Foundation. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 from the NASW Pennsylvania Chapter, having participated in countless conferences, legislative advocacy days, award ceremonies and "welcome to the profession” events for new graduates across the state. 

“President Joyner often said that we stood on the shoulders of giants in the profession such as Whitney Young, a social work legend. We now stand on the shoulders of Mit Joyner, a true social work pioneer, a voice for social justice and the power of social work, even in these turbulent times,” said Yvonne Chase, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, NASW President.

Mit Joyner's homegoing service will be held on July 17 beginning at 9:30 a.m. at St. Agnes RC Church in West Chester PA. For more information, or to send cards or flowers, visit DeBaptiste Funeral Homes Inc.

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.