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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Irving Levin Photo
Irving Levin* (1924-2010)

Irving Levin received the NASW Social Worker of the Year Award in 1996 in recognition of the outstanding work he had accomplished in Paris, France over a period of 30 years. He was, in fact, a Pioneer on two continents, and in many facets of mental health care. After graduating from the Richmond School of Social Work, Richmond Professional Institute (1952), he worked in several mental health settings in the District of Columbia, including St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the Juvenile Court, and the Department of Pupil Appraisal of the D.C. Public Schools.  

Then, in 1960 he became the Chief Psychiatric Social Worker on the Northern Virginia Mental Health Project, where he developed follow-up services for patients discharged from the “nearest” State mental hospital – 150 miles away—and stimulated mental health activities in many community agencies. In 1963, when project funds were terminated, he went to Montgomery County, Maryland, where he helped develop the first comprehensive mental health center in that area.  At that time, these were both innovative programs.

During the three decades that he lived abroad (he maintained his U.S. citizenship), Irv Levin identified many mental health needs, and did something about them. He was counselor for more than 20 years at the American School of Paris where he worked with students, parents, and teachers. He made weekly visits to Americans in jails, or who were hospitalized, and he was instrumental in founding both the Students Advisory Service, which provides counseling for college students and the International Counseling Service. He organized a Free Anglo American Counseling Treatment Support for People with or affected by HIV/AIDS (FACTS) and established effective communication and “networks” between English-speaking and French social workers. He worked with many organizations, both French and American, as a consultant and lecturer.

Irv Levin was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1924. He spent four years in the Navy during WWII. At the Great Lakes Naval Hospital, he had the assignment of interviewing patients on the psychiatric wards—this began his interest in psychology and social work. He received a BA from George Washington University, and then went on to get his degree in social work. At the same time, he worked part time for the Travelers Aid Society. Thus, he started his long career to “being there” to help others who were in trouble.

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.