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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Alfred J. Kahn Photo
Alfred J. Kahn* (1919-2009)

For almost 50 years Alfred J. Kahn probed the frontiers of social work organization and practice and sought to develop "new and improved models of service". He was a teacher, author, and consultant to many voluntary and governmental organizations. He paid particular attention to how programs developed in other countries could be useful to this country.

Kahn received his BSS in 1939 from the City College of New York, his Masters of Social Work in 1946 from Columbia University School of Social Work and his Doctorate of Social Welfare in 1952 from Columbia University. He was a faculty member of the School of Social Work Columbia starting in 1947; and was an emeritus professor. His special areas of expertise included delinquency, services for children, mental health, and social policy and planning. He chaired the committee on advance programs at Columbia University School of Social Work.

Dr. Kahn served as consultant to federal, state and local agencies, to voluntary organizations and foundations concerned with the planning of social services, income maintenance, child welfare related programs, international collaboration and social policy. For six years, he was national Chairman for the Division of Practice and Knowledge of NASW and served for two terms on the NASW Board.

He was a member of special panels at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council including panels on Welfare Reform Evaluation and the Advisory Panel on Child Development. Kahn was the author of a series of major studies and reports dealing with social planning, social services, delinquency and community planning for children. He wrote and published chapters in books and articles in many journals in the U.S. and abroad about social planning, social welfare research, the development of social work knowledge and community of mental health. His book "Planning Community Services for Children in Trouble", was published by Columbia Press in March 1963 and appeared in Spanish translation in Argentina in 1967.

In the late 1960s he published two companion volumes on the theory and practice of social planning and studies in social policy and planning which are basic text in this field. Dr. Kahn completed a number of overseas assignments for the Department of Health Education and Welfare, the State Department, private foundations, United Nations, and various foreign governments. He was the United States participant and rapporteur in 1967 U.N. "Expert Group on Social Policy and Level of Living in the Nation" and 1969 U.N. "Expert Group on Training Social Welfare Personnel for Development Planning." In some of his studies abroad he held a Fullbright lectureship. In semi-retirement he continued to travel, write and critique the status quo of welfare services.

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.