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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Paul Ephross* (1935-2017)

Pioneering Contributions

Paul Ephross served as professor of the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work from 1974 until his retirement in 2008.  He was also a clinical professor of psychiatry in the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland’s Medical School from 1989 to 1994. While teaching, he also wrote seven major textbooks including subjects such as group work, populations at risk, and ethnicity and social work practice. He was part of the first wave of social workers specializing in the field of group work and social change. A popular, creative and innovative teacher, Ephross  excelled at experiential-based teaching and introduced human sexuality content to students of professional schools across the campus.

In the 1950s while studying at Boston University, he was one of only 12 students who studied community organization. Dr. Ephross was in the first class of doctoral social work students at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Administration.

Career Highlights

Dr. Ephross taught courses on group work, social change, ethnicity, and human behavior and the social environment at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work.  He also was an adjunct professor at the Baltimore Hebrew University from 1997-2000.  He directed doctoral program students at the University of Maryland, served as Chair of the Community Planning concentration from 1974-76, as well as Chair of the Social Strategy concentration from 1972-76. He oversaw grants and contracts that supported the University of Maryland and served as director or principal investigator for research on the communication of AIDS information within families; post-doctoral training in applied and policy research in family mental health; and illness behavior in mid-life women, among other topics. He was in private practice on a part-time basis beginning in 1974. 

His community activities encompassed membership on and advising the Governor’s Commission on the Sexual Exploitation of Patients by Health Professionals in 1998; the Board of Directors of Jewish College Services in Baltimore, from 1994-1996; the Board of Directors at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Rockville, Maryland from 1994-1996; the Planning Committee of the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence in Baltimore from 1991-1992; and Executive Committee membership of the Baltimore Black-Jewish Forum from 1986-96.

Biographic Data

Dr. Ephross was born in Boston in 1935.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration in 1969 and his MSW from the School of Social Work at Boston University in 1957.  He received his BA from Harvard College in 1955.

He conducted trainings and was a consultant to numerous religious organizations including the B’nai B’rith International and Associated Catholic Charities of Baltimore.  He also provided training at the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services of Alexandria, Virginia; the Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Association of Baltimore; the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Baltimore; and supervised psychiatry residents at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Dr. Ephross was honored as Alumnus of the Year, School of Social Work at Boston University in 1984. He is listed in the 2001 edition of Who’s Who in the United States. He was also qualified as an expert witness to the circuit courts of Montgomery, Baltimore and Carroll Counties and the district courts of Anne Arundel, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia.

Significant Publications

  • Grief, GL and Ephross, PH, Editors(2005).Group Work with Populations at Risk(2nd Edition). Oxford University Press, 458 pages.
  • Ephross, PH and Vassil, TV (2005). Groups that Work: Structure and Process. Columbia University Press, 237 pages.

Special Honors

Tribute from Betsy Vourlekis, Co-chair, NASW Social Work Pioneer Steering Committee

Dear friends,

As many of you know, Paul was a member of our Steering Committee until health problems prevented his attendance. His was always a constructive, witty and historically rich contribution.

When I first came to the Maryland School of Social Work in 1974, Paul was already an esteemed full professor. Students schemed through the registration process to take his class on Group Work -- his real social work practice passion.When we began the innovative "minimester" (during January) offerings, Paul developed a first ever class on human sexuality -- also always a favorite thanks to his frank, funny, interactive and thorough approach.I believe this class attracted students from other UMB schools (i.e. law, medicine, dentistry) and I seem to recollect that he developed more formal offerings for a full semester at other UMB schools as well.

He was a true original, a passionate social worker, and a kind and generous colleague. He always wanted to be the longest serving professor at UMB and I believe he accomplished that.

Thanks for everything, Paul.


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.