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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 Nancy A. Humphreys, MSW, DSW
Nancy A. Humphreys* (1938-2019)

Pioneering Contributions

Nancy A. Humphreys, MSW, DSW, was President of the National Association of Social Workers from 1979-1981 and was only the second woman to be elected National NASW President. As President she traveled extensively, visiting 51 NASW Chapters throughout the United States. In 1995, Humphreys founded and directed the Institute for the Advancement of Political Social Work Practice (IAPSWP) at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, later renamed the Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work in 2006.

Her vision for the Institute included two goals: first, to increase the number of social workers who hold elected office; and, second, to explore ways for direct service workers to help clients increase their political power. Both goals are accomplished through education and training programs, research and knowledge building activities, and service to the community. The Institute has helped train hundreds of social workers to become involved in campaign politics. The Institute works closely with related organizations. She believed that social workers should seek elected partisan political office and that political social work practice is a legitimate specialization in the profession.

Career Highlights

Humphreys served as Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. During this time, she directed the Policy Practice concentration, as well as teaching courses on political social work practice, macro foundation practice, social environment, and women's issues. Humphreys also supported the many international activities of the School, including her own consultation to the Republic of Armenia in the creation of social work training and social service programs. Her other academic roles included serving as Dean at the Michigan State University School of Social Work, teaching women's issues courses at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University and the University of Iowa School of Social Work, and serving as faculty member and Associate Dean at Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on his National Advisory Committee on Women's Issues, where she co-authored the Human Service chapter of the Committee's final report Voices for Women. She was active in many women's organizations and presented and wrote about several social service issues from a feminist perspective. While in New Jersey, Humphreys was appointed by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court as one of the three public members to the court's committee on Professional Legal Ethics. She was appointed by the Governor of Michigan as a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Welfare Reform and served as a Gubernatorial appointee and elected Chair of the Michigan Department of Social Services Advisory Council.

Humphreys served on numerous boards and organizations including the American Public Welfare Association Council, National Conference of Social Welfare, and was a past Vice-President of the Council on Social Work Education. Humphreys was a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Women and Aging. She did editorial reviews for the Journal of Teaching in Social Work and the Springer, Praeger, Haworth, Columbia University Presses, among others. She authored numerous papers and articles on such subjects as women's issues, coalitions, family and children services, and political social work practice.

After she moved to Connecticut, Humphreys became active in the state, serving as a Board member of the Connecticut Association of Human Services, the Capital Area United Way, the statewide United Way Strategic Planning Committee, and a member of the Simsbury Human Rights Committee. She was a "Next Friend" of one of the children in the Juan F. v. O'Neill lawsuit which resulted in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Consent Decree. Humphreys served as Chair the Advisory Committee to the DCF Training Academy.

For many years she served as the Spokesperson and Co-chair for the Connecticut Coalition for Children. She was appointed by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court and elected as the founding Chair of the Parenting Education Advisory Committee, which is charged with the implementation of a State Law that requires to participate in parenting education at the time of divorce. In 2001, she accepted an appointment by then-Governor Rowland to the newly formed Governor's Commission on Divorce and Custody. Humphreys chaired NASW's Political Action Committee (PACE) and NASW’s National Committee on Legislation and Government Relations. She also provided leadership to the Human Services National Initiative to register millions of low-income voters.

Biographic Data

Humphreys began her professional career in California, where she was raised and educated. Her MSW was from the University of Southern California in 1963; her DSW was from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Humphreys was the recipient of numerous awards and citations from bodies such as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the New Jersey and Michigan state legislatures. She was particularly proud of her selection as New Jersey's Social Worker of the Year in 1981, and as the Distinguished Alumnus" from the University of Southern California Graduate School of Social Work in 1982. In 1992 she was selected Distinguished Social Worker by the Connecticut Chapter of NASW. In 2002, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her Outstanding Scientific Achievement and Contribution to the University Development from Yerevan State University, Republic of Armenia. In 2003 she received the NASW Lifetime Achievement Award.

Humphreys was inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in 2015. Her 45-minute oral history video and more information on her accomplishments can be found on their website.  More information about her life and accomplishments can be found at:

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.