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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Lillian C. Milanof Photo
Lillian C. Milanof*

Lillian C. Milanof was legendary among social work practitioners in Louisville, Kentucky. Since her career in social work and education began in 1944, clients, students, co-workers, and innumerable others remarked about her strength, compassion and dedicated advocacy. Renowned for her more than two decades as an educator in the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville, Milanof also was a nationally recognized child welfare expert whose encyclopedic recollection of child caring practices improved contemporary views about child welfare. For 60 years, her professional activities and affiliations were matched by a record of consultation and civic service that, alone, might have been a career.

Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, she held various positions, in public welfare organizations in Ohio and New York. In 1964, she moved to Kentucky and joined the social work faculty at the University of Louisville, where during the next 23 years she taught and advised students and served in administrative positions, including four years as Director of Admissions. Her sabbatical pursuits during these years included work with the Kentucky Youth Research Center in Frankfort, Kentucky, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Washington, D.C. She was named Professor Emerita upon her retirement from the University of Louisville in 1986.

Milanof served as a consultant to the Board of Social Work Examiners of Kentucky, the Kentuckiana Children's Center, the Dessie Scott Children's Home, United Cerebral Palsy of the Bluegrass, and the Kentucky Youth Research Center. In the 1960s and 1970s, and again in the 1990s, she served on advisory bodies for the administrations of no less than four Kentucky governors. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, she served on a variety of boards and planning committees for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Louisville and Western Kentucky. In 2002 Milanof was appointed by Mayor David Armstrong to the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission.

Her community service included work with the Aging Resource Center, the Kentucky Association for Older Persons, the Kentucky Cabinet for Human Resources, and Bridgehaven in Louisville. Milanof researched, reported, and wrote frequently on topics including foster care, social work program assessment, and social work education. Her service continued substantially into her post-retirement years. She continued to work with the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency, Transit Authority of River City, Metro United Way, the Kentucky Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and the Home of the Innocents in Louisville. She returned to the classroom in 1995-1996 as an Adjunct Professor of allied health and human services at Western Kentucky University.

Starting in 1992, Milanof served on the Advisory Committee for Spalding University's School of Social Work, and in 1998, she established the Lillian C. Milanof Scholarship Fund to benefit Spalding's social work students. She received a "Woman of Distinction" award from the Center for Women and Families in 1999 and a "Community Award of Excellence" from the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners in 2002. May David Armstrong and Jefferson County Judge Executive Rebecca Jackson declared October 12, 2002, to be "Lillian C. Milanof Day" in Louisville and Jefferson County. For her distinguished career in social work practice and education; for a lifetime of service to those living in special need; and for her endeavors to inspire positive change in Louisville and beyond, Spalding University honored Lillian C. Milanof.

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.