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 © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Rose Dobrof Photo
Rose Dobrof*

Dr. Rose Dobrof, during her professional career, was responsible for the development of the field of gerontological social work. From the time she entered social work practice, she was committed to services for the elderly. She created Hunter College (CUNY) Brookdale Center on Aging – a multiple purpose organization serving seniors. She secured the originating grant and served as its Executive Director until her retirement in 1994 - though she continued to serve as the Brookdale Professor of Gerontology at Hunter College. With Dr. Robert Butler, she co-directed the Hunter/Mount Sinai School of Medicine Geriatric Education Center. Together the two developed the medical, nursing and social work educational curricula, having taught hundreds of students.

Dr. Dobrof was a nationally recognized expert in the field of aging. She was the Editor of the Journal of Gerontological Social Work. She was the author of more than 50 publications and innumerable presentations in both professional and lay forums. She was an active researcher responsible for more than 10 solo and multi-professional grant-funded projects dealing with specialized services for the elderly. She influenced hundreds of health and mental practitioners to a consciousness in services for the elderly. She was involved in the field as Co-Director in the Hartford Hunter Gerontology program, Co-Director in the Mount Sinai School of Medicine/Hunter Long Term Care Gerontology Center and lectured at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University School of Social Work (her doctorate alma mater) and Hunter College, along with world-wide visiting lectureships.

Her influence extended to Board memberships in agencies dealing with service, manpower, health and mental health, wellness and home care policy. She was been a presidential appointee to the White House Conference on Aging, the Federal Council of Aging and served on the Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Aging. In 1999, she was chosen to co-chair the U.S.-Committee for the Celebration of the United Nations Year of Older Persons. The Mayor of New York, the Governor of New York, and the President's Secretary of HHS have each drawn on her knowledge in their planning for the elderly. The many recognitions from the public, foundations and community sources have been for her remarkable contribution to enhance services to the elderly. With all of these commitments, she was always available to those entering the fields of gerontology and geriatrics.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

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 March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.