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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Mila Ruiz Tecala Photo
Mila Ruiz Tecala*

Mila Ruiz Tecala was born in Cebu, Philippines. She was a naturalized U.S, Citizen. She received an AA from Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa; took some credits at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky; received a BA in Psychology/Sociology at the University of Michigan, Flint, Michigan; and her MSW from the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work in 1966. Before starting a private practice as a therapist and consultant she was a social worker at the Lapeer State Home and Training, Lapeert, Michigan; clinical social worker at the Children’s Convalescent Hospital Washington, D.C.; a clinical social worker at Georgetown University Washington D.C.; and Clinical Director at the St. Francis Institute: Center for Life Threatening Illnesses, Washington, D.C.

She was recommended as a NASW Pioneer because of her expertise in the areas of thanatology, bereavement, and loss and grief. She was known nationally and internationally for her pioneering work as a clinical social worker, educator, and administrator. She was a co-author of a book entitled "Grief and Loss: Identifying Damages in Wrongful Death Cases." Her co-author Robert T. Hall is a lawyer and the book is primarily written for lawyers.

Ms. Tecala was a private practitioner and consultant. As a clinician, she developed an exceptional practice by helping people rebuild their lives after experiencing the death of a loved one. As a consultant, she served as senior advisor to the United States Peace Corps in the Philippines, Thailand, Togo, Ecuador, Honduras, and Paraguay.

In 1999, she was selected as one of the top psychotherapists in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area by Washingtonian magazine. She was a regular guest on local, regional, and national radio and television programs representing the social work profession. In addition, she was sought to comment on a variety of social work and medical issues for the general public, including understanding grief, coping with death and dying, living with cancer, and violence issues. Within NASW, she has worked to advance the profession and promote the image of social work. On the national level, she has served as Chair of NASW's Clinical Social Work Committee and Peace and Justice Committee. On the chapter level, she was a past President of the Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter.

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.