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.

Skip Navigation Links
Porter Lee Photo
Porter Raymond Lee* (1879-1939)

In 1903, upon graduation from Cornell, Porter Raymond Lee enrolled in the New York School of Philanthropy, which at that time was the only formal program for social work in the United States. Upon completing the six week course, he began his social work career as Assistant Secretary of the Charity Organization Society of Buffalo. In 1909 he succeeded Mary Richmond as General Secretary for the Society for Organized Charity remaining there until 1912 when he joined the faculty of the New York School of Philanthropy, becoming the Director in 1917 and continuing in that capacity until his retirement in 1938.

In 1919 Lee founded the Association of Schools of Social Work, a forerunner of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), responsible for the development of accreditation standards for graduate social work education. A pioneer in social work education, Lee is credited with being the creator of the "case method" of instruction, the primary social work teaching tool. As the Editor of the Milford Conference Report Social Case Work, Generic and Specific (1929), he established a generic theory base for the practice of social case work.

His landmark book, Social Work Cause and Function (1937) explored the tension between broad social problems and the delivery of social work services, concluding that both are the goals of the social work profession. His warmth, outgoing personality, and genuine interest in people contributed to his being recognized as an outstanding classroom teacher. He served as an inspiration for his students and colleagues, encouraging their development, and increased productivity. Lee co-authored two books, Mental Hygiene and Social Work (1929) with Marion Kenworthy, and Social Salvage (1924) with Walter Pettit. His collected speeches and papers on charity organizations are available in the Whitney Young Jr. Memorial Library of Social Work at Columbia University in New York.

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!  2020 & 2021 Pioneers will be inducted at the 2022 Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.