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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Lynette Paglinawan Kahekili Kaopuiki Paglinawan, MSW
Lynette Kahekili Kaopuiki Paglinawan

Pioneering Contributions

Lynette Paglinawan Kahekili Kaopuiki Paglinawan, MSW, is renowned for her contributions to social work in the preservation and perpetuation of the Hawaiian practice of ho'oponopono. She is also known for the integration of social work and Hawaiian traditional practices. Ho'oponopono is the Hawaiian healing practice of restoring harmony within families and focuses on making amends and forgiveness. During the early 1970s there was a strong cultural renaissance movement by Native Hawaiians to return to traditional practices.  At the time, Paglinawan and her husband, Richard, were working as social workers at the Queen Lili’uokalani Children?s Center, a social service agency serving orphans and other destitute children with preference given to Hawaiian and part Hawaiian children. 

Although ancient Hawaiians passed down their traditional practices through oral histories. Pukui outlined the ho’oponopono process in her 1972 source text. Community leaders recognized the need to combine this Hawaiian spiritual healing practice within a Western world and were instrumental in bringing ho’oponopono to the forefront of interventions with Hawaiian families.  Since the early 1970s they have actively advocated for the use of ho'oponopono to help Native Hawaiian families in a variety of service agencies and within communities. 

In 1981, Paglinawan coordinated a study out of the University of Hawai’i (UH) School of Social Work that documented the use of ho’opponopono in communities.  In the early 1990s the Paglinawans collaborated with the Native Hawaiian Bar Association to offer ho'oponopono services for the first time to defendants and their families in the criminal justice systems.  Throughout this time, the Paglinawans taught the practice to interested social workers and other community practitioners. 
From 2008 to 2017, Paglinawan co-directed the UH School of Social Work?s Hawaiian Learning Program, a practicum-based program for MSW students who were committed to working with Native Hawaiian clientele and communities. She also gives cultural presentations to medical students at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine.  Before her husband Richard passed away, he and Paglinawan were major contributors to the third volume of Nana i Ke Kumu, which was eventually published in 2020, for the benefit of a new generation of ho’oponopono practitioners.  Paglinawan continues to teach ho’oponopono to potential practitioners, as well as developing undergraduate cultural curricula at the University of Hawai'i at West Oahu.

Career Highlights  

After graduating with her MA in social work in 1966, Paglinawan worked as a social worker at the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center helping Hawaiian families, realizing that Western methods were not working. Paglinawan was given authority to practice ho'oponopono with Native Hawaiian families by an expert practitioner.

From 1990 to 1995, Paglinawan was the Executive Director of Bishop Museum's Native Hawaiian Culture and the Arts Program and is credited with securing funding for the revival and revitalization of the Hawaiian fighting art, lua, in 1992. From 2008 – 2017, she joined the University of Hawaii?s Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work as the visionary director of the Hawaiian Learning Program, an experiential, practicum-based cultural program for MSW students who wanted to work with Native Hawaiian clients and organizations.  

 Since 2017, Paglinawan has worked as a faculty member at the University of Hawaii West O’ahu and has assisted in the development of the Native Hawaiian Health and Healing Practices program. 

Biographic Data

Lynette Paglinawan Kahekili Kaopuiki Paglinawan born in 1939 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her father was a loading dock worker and her mother was a custodian at an elementary school. Her mother encouraged her to get an education. She grew up during the Depression and while in the ninth grade, Paglinawan decided she wanted to be a social worker. In 1957 she graduated from Kamehameha Schools, established by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, to educate children of Hawaiian descent. In addition to providing an English college preparatory education, it also teaches Hawaiian culture, language, practices, history and traditions. 

Paglinawan was the first in her family to attend college. She attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois for two years and completed her bachelor's degree in Sociology at the University of Hawaii in 1962 and her master’s degree (MSW) in 1966. After graduation, she started took a job at the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center, working with Native Hawaiian families. 

Significant Recognition and Awards

In 2012 Paglinawan was named as a Living Treasure by the Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. According to the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii's website, "Living Treasures of Hawaii” recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated excellence and high achievement in their particular field of endeavor, and who, through continuous growth, learning, and sharing, have made significant contributions toward enriching our society.” 

In 2019 Paglinawan was presented with an honorary degree from Taiwan University. Paglinawan was awarded the Doctor of Indigenous Practice Ho'oponopono.

Significant Publications

  • Pukui outlined the ho’oponopono process in her 1972 source text, Nana i Ke Kumu, Vol 1. (Pukui, M., Haertig, E., & Lee, C. (1972). Nana i Ke Kumu (Look to the Source), vol 1, Honolulu: Hui Hanai).
  • 1972 Ho'oponopono Project Number II: Development and Implementation of Ho'oponopono Practice in a Social Work Agency; Author-Paglinawan K Paglinawan; Progressive Neighborhood Task Force, Honolulu. Published by the Queen Lili?uokalani Children's Center. Hawaiian Culture Committee.
  •  Dupont, K., Martin, T., Mokuau, N., Paglinawan, L. (2010). “Ike Hawai‘i – A Training Program for Working with Native Hawaiians,”  Journal of Indigenous Voices in Social Work. Volume 01, Issue 01, 1-24.
  • Paglinawan, R., & Paglinawan, L. (2012). “Living Hawaiian Rituals:  Lua, Ho’oponopono and Social Work”, Hulili, Vol. 8, Honolulu, Kamehameha Publishing, 11-28.
  • Paglinawan, L., Paglinawan, R., Kauahi, D., & Kanuha, V. (2020). Nana I Ke Kumu, Helu Ekolu (Vol 3), Lili’uokalani Trust.  

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.