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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Maurice V. Russell Photo
Maurice V. Russell* (1923-1988)

Throughout his social work career, Maurice V. Russell forged new ground for social work and the advancement of health and mental health services. He did so as a practitioner, educator, administrator, and leader. His contributions to social work practice, education, and research were unique and distinguished. Through his work in a variety of settings and with numerous interdisciplinary groups and associations, Russell's contributions transcended the boundaries of social work and enriched the social work profession.

Russell received his Bachelor's Degree at Temple University in 1948 and his Master's of Social Work Degree at Columbia University School of Social Work in 1950. He received his PhD at Columbia University Teacher's College in Social Psychology in 1964. In the 1960s he developed the Social Work Department at Harlem Hospital in New York City and received wide recognition for the community services which he innovated both in health and mental health context. From 1965 to 1970 he was Associate Professor of Administrative Medicine at Columbia University School of Public Health. He became Director of Social Service and Professor of Community Medicine at Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York until 1973. From 1973 until 1988, Russell was Director of the Social Service Department and Professor of Clinical Social Work at NYU Medical Center.

In all of these positions, he was responsible for innovations in social services, in broad health and mental health services, and for educating both social workers, medical students, and other health workers. He served as Chairman of the Task force on National Prevention Policy, the American Public Health Association, as a Special Consultant to the Social Work Training Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, as an officer of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, and as Chairman of the Service and Rehabilitation Committee of the American Cancer Society. He was Chairman of the first national conference on Practice Education and Research in oncology social work. He served as a member of the Professional Advisory Committee of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. As President of the Kenworthy-Swift Foundation, he facilitated the development of scores of health and mental health programs that have been funded by this foundation.

Russell received many awards for his outstanding achievements including those from the National Urban League, the American Hospital Association, and the Social Worker of the Year Award from American Public Health Association. In 1993 his countless contributions to Columbia University were recognized when the University-wide Alumni Federation presented him with its Alumni Award for Conspicuous Service to Columbia University. Russell was an elected member of the Board of Trustees of the Columbia University, and, for more than a decade, was on the advisory council of the School of Social Work. He also was honored by the establishment of an endowed professorship in Social Policy and Social Work Practice at the Columbia University School of Social Work. A Charter Member of NASW, a life member of NAACP, and a life fellow of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, Russell lived in New York City; and, maintained a country home, as well, so that his memberships included the Rheincliff Volunteer Fire Company.

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.