NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
John McDowell was president of the National Association of Social Work from 1957 to 1959.
His commitment to social work began in the 1930s, when he worked part-time in settlement houses while training for the ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. After receiving his divinity degree, he served two years as a pastor, leaving in 1936 to become resident director of the Neighborhood House in Erie, Pa. He moved to New York City in 1944, where he served as associate director of the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers. Iin 1947 he was appointed executive director and remained in that position until 1958. For the next nine years McDowell served as dean of Boston University School of Social Work, leaving in 1967 to return to direct practice in community organization as director for social welfare and associate executive for social justice with the National Churches of Christ in the USA.
Throughout his professional career, McDowell took leadership roles in several social work organizations: as treasurer and later, president of the American Association of Group Workers; on the Board of Directors and in other leadership capacities foe the Council on Social Work Education; in various positions of responsibility in the National Conference on Social Work; and as first treasurer, second president, and chair of two key committees for NASW.