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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Sue F. Ward Photo
Sue F. Ward* (1935-2014)

Sue F. Ward was the first Secretary for the Department of Aging in Maryland and served as Organizing Director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Her 50 years of pioneering contributions included changing the way citizens think about people, social workers, and social programs. She was a role model for demonstrating the diversity of knowledge, skills and competencies that social workers bring to government, communities, and practice settings and was a strong advocate for children, families, and the elderly.

Ward served as Grassroots Director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for nearly 10 years and traveled the country dispelling myths about older people, creating advocacy organizations, and educating the public about the country’s critical need for its Social Security and Medicare programs. She worked diligently to dispel myths about intergenerational conflicts and fostered collaboration rather than competition among intergenerational programs.

Career Highlights

Sue Ward was Director of Family Services and Director of the Department of Aging for Prince George’s County, Maryland and a former President of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Association of State Units on Aging. Her work as the first Secretary of the Department of Aging for the State of Maryland included service on the Governor’s Executive Council, the Domiciliary Care Facilities Board, the Task Force on Personal Care, an Interagency Committee on Aging Services, the Task Force on Quality of Care in Nursing Facilities, the Subcabinet for Children, Youth and Families, the Innovations in Aging Services Advisory council, and the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Ward is credited with preserving social service organizations, fighting to maintain autonomy for social service programs, preserving social work jobs, and finding creative solutions to budget crises that threatened programs during times of economic downturns. She conducted psychotherapy, group work, administration, and community organizing, and was most passionate and proud of her advocacy work, and efforts to steer social workers toward the historical values of the profession. 

Biographic Data

Ward received her MSW from the University of Utah in 1961 and her BA from the College of William and Mary in 1957. She also attended McGill University and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. She was proud of the fact that she taught her two daughters to march by participating with them in peace, civil rights, and women’s rights marches.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Ward received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maryland Gerontological Association, and the Champion for Seniors Award in 2010; the Women of Achievement Award from the Southern Prince George’s Business and Professional Women in 2005; the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Award to Women in Government Service by Women for Responsive Government in 2001; the Gladys Noon Spellman Award for Excellence in Public Service by Prince George’s County Executive Parris Glendening in 1994; the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Award by the (then) National Conference of Christians and Jews, Prince George’s County Chapter, in 1991; and the Woman of the Year Award by the Southern Prince George’s Business and Professional Women in 1980.

Ward is included in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who Among American Women, Who’s Who Among  Human Service Professionals, Women of Achievement in Prince George’s County; Women of Achievement in Maryland, and In the Running: The New Woman Candidate (by Ruth B. Mandel).


Sue Ward from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare at MD Celebration - YouTube Video

Interview With Sue Ward

U-T San Diego News Article

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.