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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Louise A. Frey Photo
Louise A. Frey* ( 1924-2009)

Louise A. Frey received her MSW degree in 1948 from the Columbia University School of Social Work where she was one of the first students to be placed in a clinical group work setting. This was the beginning of a social work career as an innovator of group work services in health and mental health programs. The second phase of her career was spent developing continuing education based on adult education and systems theory.

In her early career, she was a group worker in the Palmer Institute in Detroit in the School Age Child Development program. Following this, she managed to convince the Yale Medical School Psychiatry Faculty that they should hire a group of social workers to help them implement an American version of the concept of treatment, as promulgated by Maxwell Jones in England. The results of Louise’s work are described in books by anthropologist William Candell and psychiatrist and political scientist, Robert Rubenstein.

After three years in the Department of Psychiatry, Ms. Frey returned to New York as the first caseworker at Fountain House. She then went on to spend a summer at a camp for orthopedically limited children and then assumed directorship of a demonstration project integrating children from special classes into regular club groups in community centers. She joined the faculty at the Boston University School of Social Work where she implemented a NIMH grant to establish group work practice, field work and courses in clinical settings. She retired in 1991. 

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.