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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Kenneth W. Y. Lee Photo
Kenneth W. Y. Lee* (1944-2016)

Kenneth W. Y. Lee was the former Supervisor and Discharge Planning Coordinator, Social Work Service, at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. Before joining Tripler Army Medical Center, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a uniformed Social Work Officer. Mr. Lee continued his work with military-related clients following active duty in a variety of medical and psychiatric settings with the Veterans Administration (VA) and the U.S. Department of the Army.

After his retirement from federal service in 2000, Mr. Lee worked as a volunteer for the American Red Cross as a Disaster Mental Health Specialist and as a member of the American Red Cross Aviation Incident Response (AIR) Team and the International Response Team (IRT) for transportation disasters. Mr. Lee also was the Hawaii State Chapter Disaster Mental Health Lead and a disaster mental health instructor for the American Red Cross. Mr. Lee assisted in providing disaster mental health services at the World Trade Center following the events of September 11. In addition, Mr. Lee volunteered for the American Cancer Society as a consultant and facilitator in planning, and conducted activities for teenage, and child cancer survivors. Mr. Lee had more than 32 years of experience as a clinical social worker, grief and bereavement counselor, and disaster mental health clinician in a multitude of settings.

Mr. Lee received numerous awards for his exceptional work in the area of disaster mental health. The NASW Hawaii Chapter named him Social Worker of the Year in 1997 and 2002. He was named the Army Social Worker of the Year in 2000 and received a medal for the Federal Service Civilian Achievement Award. Mr. Lee received a BA in Sociology and a MSW from the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. He completed post-graduate work as a Community Health Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard University Medical School, and a Family Therapy Certificate program at the University of Southern California.

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.