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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Robert A. Mays, Jr. Photo
Robert A. Mays, Jr.* (1947-2014)

Robert A. Mays, Jr., PhD, MSW (Colonel, U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, Retired) was the Deputy Director for Administration, Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health and the Chief, Office of Rural Mental Health Research, in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.

While on continuous active duty as a Behavioral Science Officer, Dr. Mays practiced as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker; a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work; a researcher; and an academician in a variety assignments including the Republic of South Vietnam, Panama, Germany, Thailand, and the United States.

Dr. Mays was a Department Chief at Landsthul Army Regional Medical Center, Germany; and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington D.C. He also was Chief of Service at Silas B. Hays, Army Community Hospital, Fort Ord, California. Dr. Mays served as the Director of a Research and Evaluation Division in a correctional confinement facility; the Director of a Behavioral Science Division; and a Teaching Chief at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). He concluded his military career as the Inspector General for WRAMC and the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command. 

Prior to his employment at NIMH, Dr. Mays served on its National Advisory Mental Health Council for four years, where he conducted the second level review of research grant applications, and was a key participant in the preparation of numerous reports which addressed research education, research training, and the translation of mental health research into practice. As a Program Official at NIMH, he administered a portfolio which consisted of the Minority Research Infrastructure Support Program (R24), the Undergraduate Career Opportunities in Research Program (T34); and the High School Career Opportunities in Research Program (R25). He contributed to the preparation of Funding Opportunity Announcements, the provision of technical assistance to investigators, and he was the official who lifted Minority, Gender, and Child Inclusion Bars that have been applied to grants approved for funding at NIMH.

As a result of his direct experience as a “mental health first responder” in the combat environment, police operations, and correctional settings, Dr. Mays was appointed from the Department of Health and Human Services to serve as a civilian medical expert in mental health to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition, he served on a Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Mays was also a member of the Federal Interagency Health Equity Team where he served as the Co-Chair of the Leadership Subcommittee of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities.

Dr. Mays’ academic background included a BA in Criminology and Sociology, a Master of Social Work Degree in Gerontology and Administration from San Diego State University; a PhD in Social Work (Community Organization, Planning, and Administration; with a focus on Clinical Research), from the University of Southern California; and a Diploma from the U.S. Army War College. He studied and treated the effects of stress and trauma; substance abuse; family violence; war, natural disasters and technological accidents; and incarceration. Dr. Mays used his training to influence policy on the delivery of mental health services and assets during critical events, extraordinary situations, and significant circumstances of organizational change.

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.