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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Susan W. Gray, PhD, EdD, ACSW, MBA
Susan W. Gray

Pioneering Contributions

Susan Gray, PhD, EdD, ACSW, MBA, is an educator, public servant, author, and mentor who has strengthened the individual capacities of countless social workers. She is known for her creative work in mental health practice as author of Psychopathology: A Competency-Based Assessment Model for Social Workers and Competency-based Assessments in Mental Health: Cases and Practical Applications, which emphasize core social work values when working with vulnerable populations, specifically individuals who are living with mental illness, and focuses on a competency-based approach to the assessment of pathology. She has advanced perspectives on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to focus on strengths and competence, thereby transforming the paradigm of diagnosing mental illness. Her contributions continue through the publication of the fourth edition, which is used in schools of social work throughout the country and is now published internationally. 

Gray is recognized both within and beyond social work. She has served on journal editorial boards, reviewed numerous books and articles, served on multiple committees, and assumed leadership positions in critically important professional social work organizations ranging from NASW, the Council on Social Work Education, to the Association of Social Work Boards (where she was instrumental in spearheading the development of national guidelines for supervision). Gray is a leader among leaders, often stepping forward to accept key positions, both in national organizations and at Barry University where she chaired the Faculty Senate—thus bringing social work leadership to a wider audience. 

Career Highlights 

Gray joined the faculty at Barry University School of Social Work in 1980 and has taught classes within the curriculum including advanced clinical social work practice courses specializing in working with individuals and families, psychopathology, and crisis intervention. Prior to retiring in 2013, she served as the Director of the Doctoral Program.

Gray increased professional social work service in the Florida Keys. For context, that geographic region is an archipelago of 150 miles long connected by approximately 50 bridges. Though a popular vacation destination, the area is regarded as rural by its fulltime residents. Communities are split into three locales distinguished as the upper, middle, and lower Keys. As a consultant to the Florida Keys AHEC (Area Health Education Committee), considered an underserved area of the state in the 1990s, Gray advocated for education and health care services to the underserved and was instrumental in setting up a student internship to provide outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness in Key West. She also provided supervision to social workers who would otherwise have no access to professional training to meet licensure requirements. Gray’s impact on the residents of the Florida Keys was further extended by her work with the Florida Keys Community College, where she sought to introduce students to the social work profession.  

Gray developed supervision guidelines for Florida’s NASW social workers that are still in use today. Her public service was recognized in two gubernatorial appointments to Florida’s licensure board, where she was instrumental in introducing mandatory training requirements in ethics that reach beyond social workers to other counseling professionals. She also was instrumental in developing national guidelines for supervision. Gray continues her work on the Editorial Board of The Clinical Supervisor

Biographic Data

Gray’s decision to become a teacher was motivated by her wish to continue to serve and to pay forward all the mentoring and support she received throughout her professional practice. Her academic work integrated her diverse clinical practices experiences into the undergraduate and graduate courses she taught. Her spouse, Kenneth, is a retired Coast Guard officer who practiced maritime law. After practicing and teaching in Florida for nearly 40 years, Gray and her spouse “retired” and moved to Monterey, Tennessee in 2016. In her spare time, Gray enjoys writing and trying new recipes. She combined the two interests when she wrote a cookbook of treasured family recipes passed down from generation to generation for a past family reunion. 

Significant Achievements and Awards 

  • 2012Council on Social Work Education, Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education Mentoring Award 
  • 2015NASW Lifetime Achievement Award for the Miami-Dade Unit, NASW 
  • 2016National Lifetime Achievement Award, NASW 

Significant Publications 

Psychopathology: A Competency-based Assessment Model for Social Workers was first published in 2001. This text is now in its fourth edition and is used in schools of social work nationally and internationally. This groundbreaking book advances a societal culture that encourages a change in the negative perceptions of mental illness and the stigma of those who seek social work services. Her second book, Competency-Based Assessments in Mental Health Practice: Cases and Practical Applications, published in 2011, presents a competency-based type of clinical assessment that most effectively integrates the social work practice orientation that acknowledges, appreciates, and nurtures client strengths, resilience, and client ability for empowerment.

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.