NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Nellie Gustafson (1916 - 1987)
Nellie Gustafson was executive director of the Indianapolis branch of the YWCA. from 1975 to 1982. She oversaw both a move from an older, temporary building to permanent headquarters and the introduction of programs that greatly increased membership.
Prior to this appointment, Gustafson was the associate director of the Indianapolis Urban League from 1966 to 1975. She and her husband, Howard – also a social worker – helped create change in the communities they served in Cleveland, Houston, Chicago and the Virgin Islands, as well as Indianapolis.
Nellie Gustafson served during the mid-1940’s in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, along with her husband Howard Gustafson, also a Pioneer. She served with the Civilian Public Service Unit and was tasked with handling truancy referrals from the island’s Department of Education and with organizing a course for nursery school teachers. She also provided community social projects for children and adolescent girls.
Gustafson participated in many civic organizations in Indianapolis, leading to several awards for her work.
Nellie Gustafson earned her MSW from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH in 1940 and her BA from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA in 1937.
Significant Achievements and Awards
1981: Indiana Social Worker of the Year
1975: Woman of the Year, awarded by the Y.W.C.A.; and Outstanding Civic Achievement Award from the Christian Theological Seminary
1969: Woman of the Year, awarded by B’nai B’rith Organization
“Wide Program of Social Work to be Instituted Here”, Virgin Islands Daily News, No. 5097, February 5, 1944, p. 1. Retrieved from http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=757&dat=19440205&id=2i1OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ey4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=2192,714606
Encyclopedia Indianapolis. (1994). David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows (eds.) Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, p. 648.