NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Benjamin Emmanual Youngdahl (1897-1970)
Benjamin Youngdahl was a public welfare administrator, educator and lecturer. He influenced the social work profession as President of the American Association of Schools of Social Work in 1947-48. He was President of the American Association of Social Work from 1951-53 and the National Conference on Social Work in 1955-56.
He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1920 and earned an M.A. from Columbia University and returned to Gustavus Adolphus College as a professor of sociology and economics.
During the depression, Youngdahl worked in various Minnesota welfare programs, becoming Director of Social Services for the State Emergency Relief Administration and Director of Public Assistance State Board of Control in 1937. In 1939 Youngdahl joined the faculty of the Washington University, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, St. Louis, Missouri. As the Dean of the School from 1945 to 1962, Youngdahl upgraded training status, developed a more integrated curriculum, doubled the school's enrollment and established a doctoral program in 1947. The school was the first division of Washington University to admit blacks. For his concern for civil liberties, he received the Florena Loeher Award for Social Work in 1963. His best known writing was his book Social Action in Social Work in 1966.
Most sources dealing with Benjamin Youngdahl's life and professional career can be located in papers of Benjamin Youngdahl and the National Association of Social Workers at the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota. Youngdahl wrote many articles and gave many speeches and these can be found in many of the early social work publications, The Compass, Social Work Journal, the proceedings of the National Conference for Education for Social Work. For useful information regarding Benjamin Youngdahl's family background, see Robert Espjorson's biography of Youngdahl's brother Luther, the former Governor of Minnesota.