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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John "Jack" E. Hansan Photo
John "Jack" E. Hansan (1930-2019)*

Dr. John "Jack" E. Hansan started his social work career in 1950 at Minute Circle Friendly House in Kansas City, Missouri. After graduating from Rockhurst University with a BS Degree in 1951, and two years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, Hansan enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work, and interned for two years at University Settlement House. He received a MSW in 1956 and continued his career in settlement houses in Peoria, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Cincinnati, Hansan was elected Chairman of the Ohio Valley Chapter of NASW. In that role, he volunteered to be one of six organizers responsible for recruiting and managing Cincinnati’s very large delegation to the historic August 28, 1963 "March on Washington, D.C. for Jobs and Freedom." Hansan later volunteered to be Campaign Manager for Councilman John J. Gilligan’s successful election to the 89th Congress. Hansan’s close association with area civil rights leaders and elected officials provided the support he needed to be appointed the first Executive Director of the Community Action Commission of the Cincinnati area. Hansan's contributions to the local and national War on Poverty was recognized by a formal resolution of Cincinnati's City Council December 28, 1967, and again in May 1968 by the Ohio Valley Chapter of NASW and the Social Service Community of greater Cincinnati.

In 1969, Hansan moved with his wife and five sons to the Boston area to attend the Heller School of Social Policy at Brandeis University. While there, he was appointed by Ohio Governor John J. Gilligan to be Director of the Ohio Department of Public Welfare. In 1972, Governor Gilligan later appointed Hansan to be his Chief of Staff, the nation’s first social worker to hold such a position. In 1975, Hansan moved his family to the Washington, D.C. area where he served as Director of Government Affairs for the American Public Welfare Association. From 1979-1983, Hansan served as Executive Director of the National Conference on Social Welfare. From June 1983 to July 1984, Hansan was Interim Director of the National Association of Social Workers. For his contributions to social work, the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Social Work honored Hansan in 1981 as a Distinguished Alumnus.  Also in 1981, Hansan received his PhD from Brandeis University, marking the beginning of his career in gerontology.

From 1985 to 1989, Hansan was Manager, Senior Living Trends with The Futures Group. In that role he managed national projects concerning the elderly population for the AARP, United Way of America, U.S. Administration on Aging, and several Fortune 500 companies. In February 1989, Hansan was recruited by the U.S. Public Health Service to be the Project Director and build the National Practitioner Data Bank. The NPDB was a Congressionally-mandated project designed to collect and maintain data needed to restrict the ability of incompetent or unlicensed physicians, dentists, and other health care providers to move from state to state without discovery. For his efforts, on October 18, 1990, Hansan was awarded a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation by the Administrator, United States Health Resources and Services Administration for "Outstanding Contribution In Opening the National Practitioner Data Bank."

From 1991 to 1997, Hansan published Aging Network News, a national news monthly for professionals in the field of aging. In 1996 his book, 365 Ways...Retirees’ Guide to Productive Lifestyles was published by Greenwood Press; and in October 1998, Johns Hopkins Press published Personal Assistance: The Future of Home Care, which Hansan authored with colleagues Robert Morris and Francis Caro.

NASW Social Work Pioneer 1997

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.