NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2019 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Norman Polansky Photo
Norman Polansky* (1918-2002)

Norman Polansky, Regent's Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, was recognized as a pioneer in social work research. He was a major contributor to studies in the mental health field. Author of numerous books and more than 100 professional articles and monographs focusing on social work research and practice as well as issues of social isolation and child neglect, he is best known for Ego Psychology and Communication and Social Work Research

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was a social psychologist at Austin-Rigs Center in Massachusetts and head of psychology at Highland Hospital in Asheville, N. C. He later taught at Case Western Reserve, Smith College and the University of Pennsylvania before joining the University of Georgia faculty. Polansky received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, his master's in Social Service Administration from Case Western Reserve and his doctorate from the University of Michigan.

He was a member of NASW's Board of Directors and served on the editorial boards of Social Work and other publications including Child Welfare and Research on Social Work Practice. He also served on the Board of Directors of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. In the 1950s he was a consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health, where he helped to develop a new applied research grant program directed toward improvements in the care, treatment and rehabilitation of the mentally ill.

A Life Fellow of the American Orthopsychiatric Association and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, he received the Special Service Award from the Georgia Council on Child Abuse, the Vincent de Francis Award from the American Humane Association, the Frankie V. Adams Award for lifetime service to people, the Distinguished Practitioner Award from the National Academies of Practice and the Creative Research Medal from the University of Georgia. In 1991, Polansky was given the NASW President's Award for Excellence in Social Work Research.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by April 30, 2020. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.