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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Herman Stein Photo
Herman D. Stein* (1917-2009)

Herman D. Stein was nominated as a NASW Pioneer because of the many years of outstanding service he provided the social work profession as a social work educator, administrator, consultant, and in social work research, nationally and internationally. Stein was born and raised in the Bronx in 1917. He attended the City College of New York by day and evenings, and Sundays studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he acted in student productions. In 1937 he was invited to join a cast for a summer theater. He spent the following two summers in summer theater.

During this period he became acquainted with Danny Kaye who was then trying to get into radio. The two became lifelong friends. Many years later they both saw each other as each worked in their respective way for UNICEF. During this time he also entered the New York School of Social Work. He was offered a part in an off-Broadway variety show, but decided to accept a full-time scholarship at the School. Even though he decided then not to become a professional actor he wrote skits such as "The Bartender as Clinical Social Worker" and an "Interdisciplinarian Approach to the Study of Movement," which he performed at gatherings of social workers and academics, including annual Council of Social Work meetings.

His early employment was with the College of New York, the New York Jewish Family Service, and the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW). While there, in 1947, he decided to go to Europe with his wife of less than a year to work for the American Jewish Distribution Committee, European Headquarters, in Paris. His decision to leave his position at the CUSSW was due to his interest in helping the survivors of the holocaust. He remained there until 1950 when he began his series of employment, as a social work educator and administrator.

He was on the faculty of Smith College School of Social Work (1951-1963); Columbia University School of Social Work (1950-1964); the University of Hawaii School of Social Work (1971-1972); and Case Western Reserve Universtiy (CWRU) (1965-1990), where he served as a Professor of Social Administration, Coordinator of Social and Behavioral Science, Dean for the School of Applied Science, Provost of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Provost of the University, University Vice President, and University Professor, the highest academic rank at CWRU. While at CWRU he maintained an association with UNICEF that began when he was at Columbia.

During Stein's 56-year career he received many awards and served as a consultant for many professional agencies and organizations including: President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (1968); International Council on Social Welfare; UNICEF; National Academy of Sciences; American Joint Distribution Committee; American Psychoanalytic Association; President, Council on Social Work Education (1966-1969); National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); Chairman of Mayor's Commission on the Crisis in Welfare in Cleveland (1968-1969); Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; the National Association of Social Workers, which awarded him their Life Time Achievement Award; Council on Social Work Education's Distinguished Service Award (1970); and the Council of Social Work Education's Significant Life Time Achievement Award (1996). In 1994 he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa; he received Smith College School of Social Work's Day-Garrett Award for distinguished service; and in 1994 he was inducted into Columbia University's School of Social Work Hall of Fame.

Herman Stein Obituary 

As a very young man, Herman D. Stein performed in the “Borscht Belt” (Catskill Mountains) with Danny Kaye. They remained lifelong friends. When directors pressured Mr. Stein to pursue a career in acting, he consulted with his then fiancé and future wife, Charmion Kerr. “I will not marry an actor,” she told him. And a great career in social work and education was born.

Mr. Stein, born in the Bronx in 1917, passed away October 2, 2009, at his home in Shaker Heights, Ohio, after a long illness. He was 92. The native New Yorker was educated in a Yeshiva during most of his elementary school years, in a Hebrew High School while attending a Morris High School, and at the Jewish Theological Seminary while attending the College of the City of New York, where he earned a baccalaureate degree in 1939.

Immediately after marrying in 1946, Mr. Stein, left a promising career as full-time faculty member at the Columbia University’s School of Social Work to help Holocaust survivors in France. He spent tireless hours working as the deputy director of budget and research at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Paris Headquarters, and through his contributions expanded the organization’s work beyond Europe into North Africa. His commitment to the organization, begun at the age of 30, continued throughout his life. Returning to the United States, Mr. Stein rejoined the faculty at Columbia, earned a doctorate in social work in 1958, and taught there for 14 years.

"Dr. Stein,” as he was known to his scores of devoted students, took on the responsibility as Dean of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1964. The University soon tapped into his acute administrative skills to appoint him Provost and University Vice President. He went on to guide the University through the turbulent 1960s with a calm head and a steady hand, listening carefully to students and faculty. In 1994 the University bestowed upon him its highest honor, the University Medal, only the 12th person to receive it, in recognition of his expert judgment and exemplary leadership. He was again called upon to serve as the University’s Provost during 1986-88.

Among his various professional roles, Mr. Stein was a consultant to UNICEF from 1963 to 1983, serving as Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of the UNICEF to shape the organization and guide its development, and undertaking missions to more than two dozen nations He carefully preserved anecdotes from his encounters with children he met on these missions, and brought back dolls from across the world to his three daughters at home. His training and educational seminars prepared a generation of UNICEF senior executives.

A pioneer of social work profession and a highly regarded social work educator, Mr. Stein was the President of the Council of Social Work Education from 1966-69, and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) from 1968-76. He was a visiting faculty member at the Smith College School of Social Work and University of Hawaii, and was twice a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University. His authored, co-authored or co-edited several books and over a hundred scholarly articles. He also served on committees and boards of several other organizations including International Council of Social Welfare, National Association of Social Workers, National Academy of Sciences, National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Welfare Administration.

Although a New Yorker at heart and in spite of his several national and international commitments, Mr. Stein’s devotion to Cleveland was unwavering. At Mayor Carl Stokes’s request, he served as the Chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on the Crisis in Welfare in Cleveland in 1968-69. He served as advisor to the Council on International Programs, and Jewish Community Federation. Mr. Stein retained a strong Jewish identity through out his life.

When asked what Mr. Stein did during his career, Diwakar Vadapalli, his assistant and friend, responded, “It’s hard to imagine what he did NOT do.” Mr. Stein was the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, several international awards including the Rene Sand Award of the International Council of Social Welfare, the Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize from Case Western Reserve University, and the Katherine Kendal Award of the IASSW. His pioneering work is featured in several publications. Case Western Reserve instituted an Annual Lecture in International Social Welfare in his honor.

Mr. Stein was also a loving father. Full of good humor and always an incredible entertainer, he would read the telephone book to his young daughters with different expressions and emotions for every name, address and phone number to entertain them. Survivors include his brother Joseph Stein of New York, playwright of “Fiddler on the Roof” and other works for the musical stage; daughters Naomi Stein of Shaker Heights, Shoshana Bennett of California, and Karen (Mark) Gelender of California; and five grandchildren. His wife Charmion died in 2001. With keen wit and humor and fierce intellect Mr. Stein shaped organizations, universities, governments, and individual careers. His love of life was infectious and left a lasting legacy that will be felt forever.

Services were private, and were handled by Berkowitz-Kumin in Cleveland Heights. A memorial service will be scheduled in the weeks to come on the Case Western Reserve University campus, after which the family will receive visitors. Memorial contributions can be made to: the Herman D. Stein International Lecture Fund at MSASS, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-7164; the Herman and Charmion Stein Philanthropic Fund at the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, 1750 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115; or the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-4014.

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.