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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Barbara Berkman Photo
Barbara Berkman

Barbara Berkman is most well known for her research that has led to creating the standards and methodologies for supporting and demonstrating the efficacy and value of social work. She has received many awards and honors. In 1986, she became the first recipient of the Edith Abbott Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. In 1987, she received the Greatest Contribution to Practice Award from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the Hyman J.  Weiner Award for Distinguished Scholarship Contributing to Health Care Practice and Administration from the Society of Hospital Social Work Directors of the American Hospital Association.

In 1994, she was honored by the National Association of Social Workers when she received the Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Award for Outstanding  Achievement in Health and Mental Health Policy. In 2002, she received the Career Achievement Award from the Association of Geriatric Education in Social Work. And in 2009, she was honored with the Donald P. Kent Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gerentological Society of America for her professional leadership in gerontology through teaching, service, and interpretation of gerontology to the larger society.

Dr. Berkman received her MA Degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service in 1960 and her DSW Degree in 1970 from Columbia University. She began her career in Chicago at the Jewish Family and Community Services. She moved to New York City and joined the staff of the Community Service Society and later the Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she worked from 1965-1980 when she moved to Boston. She worked from 1980-1987 as Director of the Social Work and Healthcare Program at Massachusetts General Hospital's Institute of Health Professions and later as Director of Research for nine years. She has been on the faculty of Simmons College School of Social Work, Harvard Medical School and the Columbia University School of Social Work. Currently, Dr. Berkman is a Research Professor at Boston College Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW).

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.