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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Kenneth S. Carpenter Photo
Kenneth S. Carpenter* (1924-2018 )

Kenneth S. "Ken" Carpenter retired in 2004 after working in the field of Criminal Justice for 55 years. During this period of time, he pioneered in introducing social work principals, programs, and policies in juvenile and adult criminal institution settings. Upon earning his MSW in 1950, he became Director of the Minnesota Youth Commission’s Diagnosis Treatment Center in Red Wing, Minnesota, where he remained for 10 years. He was responsible for developing group and individual treatment and diagnostic programs, as well as the training of staff, which had previously been largely custodial in nature.

In 1960, he moved to Washington, D.C. and joined the staff of the Juvenile Delinquency Division of the Children’s Bureau, United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He started in the division as its Juvenile Delinquency Institution Consultant and later became Director of the Technical Assistance Branch. While he was with the Children's Bureau he was responsible for editing a new directory of services for juvenile institutions and supervising consultants in police work with children, juvenile detention facilities, juvenile courts and group work.

In 1970, he left the Children’s Bureau to join the staff of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, United States Department of Justice, a program that had recently been established by Congress. He became the Director of Corrections and was responsible for providing funding for state and local departments to develop a fund for a wide range of juvenile and adult community and institutional programs. From 1980 until his retirement in 2004, he worked at the National Institute of Corrections located in the Department of Justice. He served as the Technical Assistance Manager of the Community Corrections Division.

Mr. Carpenter was a Charter Member of the National Association of Social Workers. While he was in Minnesota, he was a member of the Southern Chapter, NASW, and was President-elect of the Chapter when he moved to Washington, D.C. He joined the Metropolitan D.C. Chapter of NASW upon moving to Washington, D.C., and was a member of the Chapter's Criminal Justice Committee.

Mr. Carpenter was active for many years as a member of the International Council on Social Welfare and served as a member of the U.S. Committee, ICSW. He attended ICSW Conferences in North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa, and served as a conference speaker, workshop leader, and resource consultant on criminal justice. He served as President of the Columbia University Club of the Metropolitan Washington Area and was active in the alumni programs of the Columbia University School of Social Work, officiating as Committee Chairman of the CUSSW Alumni in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. In 1976 he received the Columbia University's Alumni Federation Medal for Conspicuous Alumni Service Award. In addition, he received the Social Worker of the Year Award from the NASW D.C. Metro Chapter. 

Ken Carpenter was the author of a number of professional articles on criminal justice. Upon his retirement in 2004, he was awarded a plaque from the National Probation and Parole Association for decades of service in the field of criminal justice. He graduated from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He worked as a Public Assistance Worker for the Polk County Welfare Board in Minnesota for two years before attending the Columbia University School of Social Work, where he obtained his MSW. Mr. Carpenter was married to Margery P. Carpenter, also a member of the NASW Social Work Pioneers®.

Video: Kenneth Carpenter receives Alumni Medal from Columbia University (April 2011).

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.