NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Hobart Burch Photo
Hobart Burch* (1932-2012)

Dr. Hobart A. Burch embodied a role model for future social workers in his career. He was a successful practitioner in increasingly responsible leadership positions at the neighborhood and city levels in New York City, Boston and Buffalo. He demonstrated creative and influential leadership in faith-based social work at the National Council of Churches. The accent in this role was on planning and coordination to weave a safety net of social services well before the concept became popular.

He helped shape the Federal Government's policy and program response to poverty, particularly in youth employment, as a part of the War on Poverty. He had an active and important role in interpreting and promoting professional social work in an environment that was hostile to the profession. He did this, in part, by quickly preparing well-researched policy and program position papers that were used by his superiors in the U.S. Department of Labor. Thus, he helped give real meaning to the efforts to build a "Great Society." In this role, he helped change the views of many decision makers about the worth of professional social work and some of their clients.  He chose to leave Federal service when his convictions were no longer compatible with Federal direction. He then became the Executive Director of the National Social Welfare Assembly. In this position, he used his knowledge of the Federal system to help guide the efforts of many national non-profit organizations.

Dr. Burch completed the final years of a productive career as a professor of social work and as Dean of the School of Social Work in the state of Nebraska. His teaching and educational administration career was distinguished by his commitment to the whole of the profession. For him, the micro/macro split was seen as a window of convenience rather than two different kinds of social work. During this period, also, his policy research and writing led him to international social work. In this connection, he established a consulting relationship that shared social work policy learning internationally.

Dr. Burch received an AB in 1953 from Princeton University with a double major in English literature and American civilization program; an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in 1956; a MSW in 1958 from the Columbia University School of Social Work; and, a PhD in Social Policy and Planning from Brandeis University in 1958.  He authored several books on social policy.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.