Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement 

The Knee/Wittman Health and Mental Health Awards are recognition awards presented for outstanding achievements and significant contributions in the fields of health and mental health. The Knee/Wittman Award Program was established to recognize those who represent the values, ethics and approaches exemplified by two dedicated social work pioneers, Ruth Knee and Milton Wittman, who guided the development of social policy and standards.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a professional social worker who has made exemplary contributions in health and mental health practice. Professional social work practice includes direct or clinical social work; social work education; social work research and administration related to health or mental health problems, issues or programs.  

About The Award And Its Namesakes

Legendary social workers Ruth Irelan Knee (1920-2008) and Milton Wittman (1915-1994) guided the development of social policy and standards. Their lifelong commitments to social values and the effective provision of services to those who are disadvantaged are reflected in their careers with the Public Health Service and in their leadership roles with professional social work, public health and mental health organizations.

Ruth Knee and Milton Wittman are members of the NASW Social Work Pioneers®.  To learn more about Ruth Knee, follow this link to visit her Pioneer biography.  To learn more about Milton Wittman, follow this link visit his Pioneer biography.

Outstanding Achievement Award Guidelines

The Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement Award recognizes an individual or group that has had a significant impact on national health and/or mental health public policy, professional standards, or exemplary program models.  The contribution may be in the development, interpretation, implementation, institutionalization, or expansion of health or mental health policy or legislation.  Such achievement should be reflected in positive improvements in the social work profession and in the services provided to clients (individuals, families, communities, or institutions).  This award includes but is not limited to social workers.

Nomination Requirements

Summarize the nominee's accomplishments by using the criteria listed below. The following must be submitted online.

  • Completed nomination form.
  • Describe specifics of nominee's achievement as it relates to the field of health/mental health policy.  What is the intended extent of the policy?  What is its national impact?
  • What are the professional or programmatic attributes which uniquely characterize the nominee?
  • How has the policy innovation or refinement improved the delivery of health/mental health services and what has been the impact on individuals, families, groups, and/or communities?
  • How has this been evidenced in legislation, regulations, research, teaching, administration, clinical standards, or public health/community mental health programs?
  • Three additional endorsements with support letters.
  • Curriculum Vitae (preferred) or list significant special recognition, awards, or honors which the nominee has received for this or other policy achievement.
  • Additional information or comments.

Nominations are considered for two consecutive years. NASW national staff, current members of the NASW Board of Directors, and members of the Award Committee are ineligible.  For questions, please email the NASW Foundation at:

Outstanding Achievement Award Recipients

  • 2016  Virna Little, PsyD, LCSW-R, SAP, CCM
  • 2015  Mercedes Bern-Klug, PhD, MSW
  • 2014  Roberta Greene, PhD, ACSW, LCSW
  • 2013  Robert Connolly, MSW, LCSW-C
  • 2012  Lisa Pape, LISW
  • 2011  Peter Delany, PhD, LCSW-C
  • 2010  James Zabora, ScD, MSW
  • 2009  Ronald Manderscheid, PhD
  • 2008  Carlton E. Munson, PhD, LCSW-C
  • 2007  Teresa DeCrescenzo, MSW, LCSW
  • 2006  No Award Given.
  • 2005  No Award Given.
  • 2004  Marylou Sudders, ACSW
  • 2003  Joel M. Levy, DSW
  • 2002  Rose Dobrof, DSW
  • 2000  Claire Rudolph, PhD, MSW
  • 1999  Joan O. Weiss, ACSW
  • 1998  Helen Northen, PhD
  • 1997  Hans S. Falc , PhD, ACSW
  • 1996  Virginia Insley, MSW
  • 1995  Golda M. Edinburg, ACSW
  • 1994  Barbara Berkman, PhD, ACSW and Abraham Lurie, PhD, LCSW
  • 1993  Juan Ramos, PhD, MSW
  • 1992  Juanita Evans, MSW
  • 1991  Patrick DeLeon, JD, PhD, MPH, MS
  • 1990  Bernice Harper, LLD, ACSW
NASW Social Work Pioneer Ruth Irelan Knee In Conversation - From NASW Archives

Historic photograph of NASW Social Work Pioneer Ruth Irelan Knee in conversation. The Knee/Wittman Health and Mental Health Achievement Awards were established in honor of Ruth Knee and Milton Wittman.

2016 Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement Award Winner Dr. Virna Little Speaks At Awards Ceremony

Virna Little, PsyD, LCSW-r, MBA, CCM, SAP, accepts the Knee/Wittman Oustanding Achievement Award at A Night At The Awards - A Night To Remember, at the 2018 NASW National Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 22, 2018.

Dr. Mercedes Bern-Klug 2015 Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement Award Recipient With Emcee Gary Bailey

Nominate Someone!

Recognition Award nominations are accepted biennially.  Final dates are not confirmed at this time for the 2019 call for nominations, but the nomination season is expected to begin in August 2019. Please check here for updated information.


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