NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Patricia Warburton Duncombe (1925 – 2010)
Patricia Warburton Duncombe made her most distinguished contributions in Wyoming and Nevada, where she teamed with her husband to provide services to many groups, most especially Native Americans. She was an ardent spokesperson for equality and empowerment of Native American communities, particularly during her time at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. While her husband served as chaplain, Duncombe became director of St. Michael’s Youth Residence, a residential treatment center for Native American teenagers and preteens. She and her husband played key roles in a successful community effort to establish an Indian-controlled high school, aiming to stem a 70% drop-out rate among students who attended off-campus schools.
In 1989 she launched the Lend-A-Hand program in Boulder City, which gives respite care to families caring for the frail elderly and disabled. In 1992, President George H.W Bush awarded the program the 700th Point of Light to recognize volunteerism.
Patricia Warburton Duncombe began her social work career with the YWCA in the late 1940s. She worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1966 to 1967, the Nevada State Welfare Office from 1967 to 1969, and as Director of St. Michael’s Youth Residence in Wyoming from 1970 to 1976. She was an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming from 1976 to 1983.
Duncombe served as executive director of the Nevada chapter of NASW from 1985 to 1989. She spent the years 1985 to 1992 in private practice as a medical social worker for various home health agencies.
Duncombe earned her M.S.S.W. from Columbia University School of Social Work in 1947. She received her B.A. from Barnard College in New York in 1944.
Patricia Warburton Duncombe was born in London, England and came to the United States in June 1940 as a war refugee. She became a naturalized citizen in Mineola, New York in 1951.
Significant Achievements and Awards
1993: Outstanding Social Worker, UNLV (Nevada)
1992: 700th Point of Light (for Lend-A-Hand)
1991: NASW Lifetime Achievement Award
1989: Social Worker of the Year, Nevada
1980: Social Worker of the Year, Wyoming
Duncombe was also listed in the Who’s Who of American Women and Episcopal Lay Leadership Directory. She was a trustee of the diocese of Wyoming’s Episcopal Church and on the Wyoming Commission for Women from 1971 to 1983, serving as Chair from 1975 to 1977.
Duncombe, P.W. & Titus, A. (2001). When Death Comes Suddenly. Vantage Press.
Duncombe, P.W. & Charleston, W. (1981). Within the Circle: Christian Ministry and the American Indian. Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement Publications.