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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Delwin M. Anderson Photo
Delwin M. Anderson* (1916-2007)

Delwin M. (Del) Anderson was Director of the Social Work Service of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in the Veteran's Administration from 1964 to 1974. During this time he was responsible for giving overall direction to 2,600 social workers who were employed in 171 hospitals, 18 domiciliaries, and 206 out-patient clinics, the largest program of organized social service in the United States.

In his work in the Veterans Administration Anderson stressed the importance of social work's commitment to the treatment and rehabilitation of the whole person in the context of the individual's medical and social environment. He emphasized the growing recognition of the social components of illness and injury and upon planning with the person and utilizing his or her assets rather than focusing on disability. His leadership placed social service representation within Veterans Administration policy-making groups where it was possible to consider new ways to preserve family ties and to provide the required resources and opportunities which would advance the veteran patient's successful return to family and community life. Anderson also encouraged the appointment of social workers as consultants and administrators in other programs of the complex Veterans Administration.

Anderson received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1939 and his master's of social work degree from the same university in 1946. He began his Veterans Administration career in 1947 as a field social worker in Duluth, Minnesota and subsequently held positions of supervisor, chief social worker, and area chief before coming to the Central office. Prior to employment with the VA, he had taught in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, worked as a program director in the Goodrich Social Settlement in Cleveland, Ohio; and as Assistant Boys Secretary in the YMCA in Minneapolis.

Anderson served on committees and boards of a number of social work organizations including NASW, CSWE, the National Conference on Social Welfare, the American Hospitals Association, Society for Hospital Social Work Directors, and the National Council on Aging. He also served on community boards including the Commission on Human Resources and the Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Service Board in Arlington County, Virginia. Anderson published numerous articles including the section on "Veterans' Service" for the 1971 Encyclopedia of Social Work.

He served on the editorial board of social work from 1965 to 1971 and was chairman of the editorial committee for Proceedings of the Annual Forum of the National Conference on Social Welfare in 1972. The Veterans Administration honored Anderson by selecting him to attend several Executive Seminars given the Civil Service Commission and the Brookings Institute. He received an award from the University of Minnesota for outstanding achievement at the 5th annual meeting of the School of Social Work Alumni Association in 1969 and the Veterans Administration's Distinguished Service Award in 1974.

During his retirement, Anderson continued to be active in community groups and served on the Board of Trustees for the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. He lived in Arlington, Virginia and traveled extensively.



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 and 2022 Pioneers were inducted at the 2022 Annual Program and Luncheon. 

2022 Special Honoree