NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Gwendolyn Nero Loper
Gwendolyn Loper was a “first” in a number of areas during her career. She was the first African American social worker hired at the Mississippi VA Medical Center (now Hudspeth Regional Center) in 1965, the First African American woman elected to the presidency of the Jackson, Mississippi YWCA Board of Directors in 1974, and the first African American woman appointed to a major board, the Mississippi State Board of Mental Health.
Loper was also a charter member of NASW’s Mississippi chapter.
Loper moved to Jackson, Mississippi after receiving her MSW from Howard University in order to actively participate in the civil rights movement through projects at the local and national level. She worked at the Department of Human Services for 11 years before moving to the VA Medical Center in 1966, where she spent the majority of her career.
Loper also was a graduate student supervisor at Jackson State University School of Education from 1980 to 1985. She continues to serve on many advisory boards and community organizations.
Gwendolyn Loper received her MSW from Howard University in 1955 and her AB from Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1952.
Significant Achievements and Awards
1994: Woman Making a Difference Award, Delta Sigma Theta
1980: Listed in Mississippi’s Black Woman 1976
1976: Social Worker of the Year, N.A.S.W. Magnolia chapter
1975: Tougaloo College Alumnus of the Year
1969: Listed in Personalities of the South
1965: Outstanding Young Women of America
In 1995, after 30 years of dedicated service, Gwendolyn Loper received the distinct honor of a building named for her at the Veterans Administration Center’s Hudspeth Regional Center. This was the first time a building had been named for a social worker in Mississippi and the Mississippi State Board of Mental Health took the unusual step to acknowledge her outstanding contributions.