NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Melvin A. Glasser (1915 - 1995)
Melvin Glasser was a major leader in the continuing efforts to develop a national health care program.
He was director of the Health Security Action Council, a Washington-based, consumer oriented health policy organization of national leaders forming a network of labor, business, youth, senior citizens, women, education, farm, and related civic agencies. He came to this position in 1981 from the United Auto Workers Union where for 18 years he served as Director of the union's professional consulting staff which advised the UAW on worker benefits and occupational health services. His social work career started in the 1930s at the Graduate School of Jewish Social Service and he received a certificate from the New York School of Social Work. He first worked in child welfare programs. In the 1940s he worked with a number of American Red Cross programs and was appointed Director of the International Activities for the ARC. President Harry S. Truman named him Executive Director of the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth and subsequently Associate Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau. During the 1950s he was Executive Vice President of the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis and served as Administrative Director of the largest medical field trials in history. He played a leading role in the eradication of polio both in the United States and in other countries. President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the National Committee and Chair of the Resolutions Committee for the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth. In the late 1950s, Glasser became Dean of Development of Brandeis University and was a Professor at the Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare. For a number of years he held adjunct faculty appointments at the School of Public Health of the University of Michigan and in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health of Yale University School of Medicine. He was selected to be a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and has been involved with the Board of the Georgetown University Institute for Health Policy Analysis.
Glasser's professional activities in social work organizations have also been outstanding. He was a Vice President of the American Association of Social Workers and represented that organization on the Temporary Inter-Association Committee which founded the National Association of Social Workers where he played a leading role in developing the basic plan for NASW. He was also President of the National Conference of Social Welfare in the 1970s and was active in the International Federation of Social Workers. His wife, Esther Glasser, also a graduate of the New York School of Social Work, specialized in school social work. She was the Chairperson of the NASW's Conference on School Social Work in 1985.
Glasser was a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and had always advocated quality standards in social work practice and in health care. He served for six years on the American Board of Medical Specialties.