NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Virginia Tannar Sandifer (1902- 1999)
Virginia Tannar, teacher, staff development specialist, and artist, has had a distinguished career as a professor of casework and as a pioneer in developing courses and materials for in-service training in state and local welfare agencies. With a bachelor of arts degree from Eureka College, Illinois, and experience as a public school teacher, she was recruited into social work during the early years of the Roosevelt Administration. In 1935, she received a Temporary Emergency Relief Administration scholarship to work toward her master's degree at the New York School of Social Work (now Columbia University), which she earned in 1942. In 1982, Eureka College conferred upon her an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Throughout the 1930s, she rose rapidly through the ranks in the New York City Department of Welfare as a caseworker, supervisor, and staff development teacher. She was a field instructor with the New York School of Social Work in the first student unit established in the public assistance program of the New York Department of Public Welfare. In 1943, she accepted a position as professor of social work with Case Western Reserve University. There, she also was responsible for master's and doctoral program curriculum development. She was also in demand by the Council on Social Work Education, NASW, and schools and agencies throughout the United States to present short courses, seminars, and educational assignments.
Her pioneer work in staff development began in 1961 with a special project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to plan and conduct a unique program of training for public welfare workers, which she then presented in her book Case Work Concepts for Public Welfare Workers, published by the U.S. Government Printing Office. This work led to a shift from university teaching to leadership in a permanent position at HEW, where she directed and taught training workshops for state staff development personnel and developed a variety of teaching materials for in-service training in family and child welfare departments. She also participated in workshops for the United Nations in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Manilla. She was responsible for the final report of the project which was published in May 1971 in Bangkok.
Since her retirement in 1973, she pursued her interest in art and enjoyed considerable success as a practicing artist. She died in 1999.