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Howard Gustafson (1916 - 1966)



Howard Gustafson was a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the Mandel School of Applied Social Services, Case Western Reserve University. He was active as a social work leader in Cleveland as well as in Houston, Texas, where he worked with the Community Council of Houston and Harris County.

He was elected president of NASW in 1964. At that time he was serving as executive director of the Community Service Council of Indianapolis, a position he had held since 1952. He was also serving as a member of several committees and board of directors in Indianapolis, and was a consultant to the Ford Foundation Research Project in Community Organization for the Elderly. Prior to his election as NASW's sixth president, he had served the Association in a leadership capacity as member-at-large on the Board of Directors (1957-1960); second vice president (1960-1962); and chair of the Committee on Chapter-National Relations (since 1963). Additionally, he held numerous committee assignments in the Central Indiana Chapter, to which he belonged.

A respected authority in the field of community organization, he was a powerful advocate of social work cooperation on the "War on Poverty". He was also among those directly responsible for the formation of - and was a participating member of - the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) Community Action Against Poverty in Indianapolis. He took the occasion in his inaugural address as NASW president in 1965 to stress the antipoverty challenge to social work saying: "We expect as social workers, to give a good account of ourselves in such efforts - and to lead the way in making adaptations and innovations." On March 25, 1965, as NASW president elect, he participated in the Freedom March in Montgomery, Alabama, and wrote an account of that experience in an article that appeared on the front page of NASW News in May 1965. He recalled:


On the way back home, I tried to analyze what the civil rights struggle means to our Association...I was wondering whether social workers, and NASW in particular are Really prepared to act on social issues in their own communities and in their own Agencies...This is what I've been thinking about since returning home from Montgomery.

NASW celebrated its 10th anniversary during which was to have been the first year of Gustafson's two-year term as its president. On December 9, 1965, he opened the proceedings at NASW's 10th Anniversary Awards Dinner with these words:


As an association we have reached an important milestone. In these first 10 years We have witnessed a spectacular growth in numbers...What is most satisfying, However, is the rich and varied program that has evolved, through which we strive To further the responsible and progressive development of the social work profession.

On May 28, 1966, while in Chicago to attend the NASW Seminar on Social Action, he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 50 years old. In his honor, NASW established a major award - the Howard F. Gustafson Award - and also undertook sponsorship of the Howard F. Gustafson Fund, established by the Community Service Council of Indianapolis.