NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Samuel Sylvester (1931 - 1994)
Samuel Sylvester was a key figure in developing a faculty and student exchange program between the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He also was an advocate for community change and empowerment in Philadelphia as a professor at Penn’s School of Social Work, where he worked from 1970 until his death.
Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work, Sylvester taught at Lincoln University, Hunter College in New York and the Mississippi State University’s School of Social Work. Sylvester was also a consultant to social service agencies in the Philadelphia area and nationally, including the Crime Prevention Association and the Belmont Psychiatric Center.
Samuel Sylvester worked with the United Neighbors Association in 1958 and during the 1960’s was at Philadelphia’s Model Cities Program, the Germantown Settlement and Children Services, Inc.
Samuel Sylvester earned his MSW at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work in 1964. He received his BA from Temple University in 1954.
Sylvester was a sports enthusiast and briefly played basketball on the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association basketball team.
Significant Achievements and Awards
Samuel Sylvester was a founding member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers. He was also founder and president of the University of Pennsylvania’s African American Association (now known as the Black Student League).