WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) on Oct. 14 will commemorate the 27th anniversary of its NASW Social Work Pioneers® program with a celebration featuring some of the most influential social workers in the nation, including the posthumous induction of NAACP co-founder William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” DuBois (1868-1963).
During the event, the NASW Foundation will induct DuBois and 24 other social workers into its Pioneers program, which was created to honor social workers who have contributed to the evolution and enrichment of the profession.
“For nearly three decades, the NASW Foundation has recognized the outstanding achievements of Social Work Pioneers, individuals who have truly elevated the profession,” said Brian Williams, Acting Assistant Director of the NASW Foundation. “These pioneers have left an indelible mark on social work, spearheading the development of countless human services programs and government policies, which have positively impacted the lives of individuals from all walks of society. This year, we’re pleased to celebrate these remarkable individuals and their extraordinary contributions to the social work profession.”
Two visionary social worker, Ruth Knee and Mark Battle, conceived this program so that the contributions of social workers would be chronicled and historically preserved.
Inductee DuBois published the first research on the Black community in his book The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study and History of Pennsylvania's Black American Population; their Education, Environment and Work (The University of Pennsylvania; 1899). It emphasized the person in environment vs. the use of a deficit model from the Settlement House perspective that was in use at that time. DuBois, the first African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University in 1895, was one of the founding members of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University and wrote his most well-known book The Souls of Back Folk (A. C. McClurg and Co.; 1903).
Other inductees include:
Lawanna Barron, who has for nearly 30 years been recognized for her contributions related to strengthening and expanding programs to prevent child abuse and intimate partner violence and to support the strains experienced by military families.
Richard Barth. He has made outstanding contributions in social work research, practice, and policy, including the protection and safety of children cared for in public institutions. He is a professor and former emeritus dean of the School of Social Work, University of Maryland and the founding president of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW).
Gary Bess has contributed to the social work profession through his more than 40 years of macro social work practice, which has included directorships of two free medical clinics in southern California.
Risa Breckman for more than 40 years has been at the forefront of the elder justice movement: working directly with people who experienced elder abuse, developing innovative responses to elder mistreatment, and much more.
Eddie F. Brown is a trailblazing social work advocate, educator, scholar, researcher, policymaker, role model and Indigenous Elder, who has made a lasting impact on Indian country and culture for 53 years.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Cauble, a long-time NASW leader, is known for pioneering efforts while working at the Shriners Hospital in Minnesota in the 1980s. She is known for building the Parent Accommodation Center, which provided housing and support services to the families whose children were at the hospital, serving as a model at other Shriners’ hospitals.
Hank Cecil is revered in the state of Kentucky for his unwavering commitment to and demonstrated expertise at micro, mezzo, and macro social work. His impressive professional history includes transitioning from being a pastor to acquiring a social work degree, undertaking clinical practice, and playing a role in telehealth.
Darla Spence Coffey made contributions as president and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This includes establishing 842 programs that increased the number of social work graduates to meet the demand of the shortage in the world. Coffey’s is celebrated for her pioneering courses on mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
Shirley E. Cox was instrumental in preserving and expanding NASW through difficult times in the 1970’s. Elected to the NASW National Board just two years after getting her MSW in 1967, she cast the deciding vote to save NASW from Bankruptcy and dissolution. She moved NASW from NYC to DC and shifted NASW from profession-focused to political advocacy and a voice for client’s rights and protections.
Ivor J. Echols inspired hundreds of students and, as a leader, strengthened numerous community and national organizations, including the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) and NASW, working tirelessly to combat racism and injustice, especially in the African American community.
Diane E. Elze has made notable and lasting contributions to the care, treatment, human rights, and equity for LGBTQIA2S+ youth in the state of Maine and nationally during her 45-year social work career as a clinician, advocate, educator, researcher, and professional leader.
Sudarshan Kapoor. Born in India, during the Gandhian non-violent independence movement era, Dr. Kapoor made a lifelong commitment to peace and non-violence when he served as professor of Social Work, Community Development and Peace Studies, at Cal State University, in Fresno, CA. He was one of the pioneers of the social work program in 1967.
Leslie Leighninger is a nationally recognized social welfare history and policy scholar, educator, and administrator, who has made significant contributions to social welfare research, education, and practice.
Mark Lusk is the founding Chair and Director of the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Social Work where he developed its MSW degree program. And at Boise State University, he was the founding Director of the School of Social Work where he developed the MSW program and secured CSWE accreditation.
Mary L. McCarthy, a faculty member at the University of Albany School of Social Welfare since 1987, has been Co-Principal Investigator of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute since 2008, and was awarded over $75 million in federal grants. She and her team were the first to develop a race equity tool kit and wrote on the need to address implicit bias in child welfare.
Julie Niven has been a behavioral health therapist in remote and dangerous/and or in short-staffed agencies in her long career. An advocate for the indigenous, she worked with the CSWE to help create the first guidelines for advanced practice in military social work. She also wrote documents to help the Bureau of Prisons to help inmates re-enter society after their incarceration.
Masaru Oshiro has had a distinguished and pioneering social work career as Deputy Director of Department of Social Services and Housing (DSSH) managing corrections, parole, and criminal injuries compensation programs in Hawaii.
Scott Ryan helped establish the interdisciplinary Center for African American Studies in 2012 at University of Texas at Arlington and he appointed the first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the School of Social Work in 2021.
Jonathan Bentley Singer, Professor of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago, used his social work knowledge and technology skills to create the first social work podcast in 2007 (www.socialworkpodcast.com). He is also an authority on suicide prevention, and he is a past president of the American Association of Suicidology.
William Spitzer has been a prolific writer and author of books on health-care social work. His Exemplars of Practice Series covers a wide range of research findings and practice suggestions and guidelines.
Diane Stroud has made invaluable contributions nationwide expanding the role of child crisis nurseries and services focused on child abuse prevention including working with families to prevent abuse.
Jim Toy (1930-2022) was a tireless, tenacious, and effective pro bono counselor, therapist, activist, and program coordinator, who advanced the rights and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community in Michigan and nationally throughout his 40+ year social work career.
Larry Watson had a distinguished career as a developer of innovative programs to prevent the incarceration of youth in adult jails, transforming adoption services toward open adoption, and as an academic leader, especially focused on teaching non-profit management.
Judy Webber is one of the first Child Welfare Directors to use data and geo-mapping to identify geographic regions that have disproportionate representation of Latinx families in the Child Welfare System.
Dr. Anthony Estreet, NASW CEO and President of the NASWF, will be the keynote speaker and will share insights related to how social workers are meeting new challenges in a changing landscape, as well as his leadership vision for NASW moving forward. A student panel will explore with Pioneers their ideas about how to address and solve various social problems and issues.
The celebration will be held at the historic Cosmos Club, a 145-year-old private social club in Washington, D.C., for those distinguished in science, literature, the arts, a learned profession, or public service.
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.
The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.