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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Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan, MSW, ACSW
Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan* (1940-2018)

Specific Pioneering Contributions

Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan, MSW, ACSW, was a social work leader known for his commitment to preserving the Hawaiian culture and values.  In 2006, Paglinawan was honored as a Living Treasure by the Honpa Hongwanji. The Hongwanji recognized his devotion to the perpetuation of ancient Hawaiian culture in a modern social environment has expanded conservation and preservation efforts throughout the state and beyond. Through the mastery of "lua", an ancient Hawaiian martial art, he has managed to regenerate an emphasis on cultural values, self-esteem and spiritual balance". 

Paglinawan conducted lectures and seminars on Hawaiian traditions and modern Hawaiian issues to various organizations in Hawaii, California and Alaska. He also provided historical information, archaeological data and cultural significance to state and county communities as well as the University of Hawaii. Known for his workshops on ho'oponopono, a Native Hawaiian conflict resolution model, he inspired generations of social workers and Native Hawaiians. 

Career Highlights

After receiving his MSW in 1962, Paglinawan was a group worker at the Salvation Army Facilities for Children in Honolulu and in 1967 became the VISTA Supervisor at the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center (QLCC). While at QLCC, Mary Kawena Pukui trained Richard and his wife, Lynette, in conducting ho’oponopono and she became their mentor in practicing the model.  Throughout his career Paglinawan served as a cultural consultant, historian and leader to numerous State, county and non-profit organizations. 

In 1968, Paglinawan was the deputy director for the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. In 1975 to 1981, he was the Deputy Director for the State of Hawaii Department of Social Services and Housing. 

Ten years later, Paglinawan was the chair of the Hawaii Historic Places Review Board of State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. This Board placed more than 600 historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places to be protected and recognized for their significance to the history, architecture, archaeology or culture of Hawaii. During his tenure on the Review Board, the island of Kahoolawe, a small uninhabited island that the US Navy used for bombing practice, was placed on the National Register. The Navy was required to cease its bombing of the island, remove ordnances and transfer the island back to the state. This was a significant victory for the Native Hawaiian community.

Hurricane Iwa devastated the islands of Niihau, Kauai and Oahu in 1982. It was the first significant hurricane in Hawaii since 1959. Paglinawan organized a team of workers to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to successfully help the families damaged by the hurricane put their lives back together. 

In 1984, Paglinawan was instrumental in establishing the first Hawaiian language program for preschoolers. 

Paglinawan was the Administrator for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) in 1989, an office dedicated to improving the wellbeing of Native Hawaiians through advocacy, research, community engagement, land management and funding of community programs. He was successful in obtaining $130 million in back payments and interests and $8 million annually for the office so it can continue to serve the Native Hawaiian community. 

In 1992, another devastating hurricane hit the islands. Hurricane Iniki crippled the island of Kauai. Paglinawan was in charge of coordinating OHA's assistance to the families who were affected by the hurricane. 

Paglinawan founded a bi-annual meeting of Pacific Nations, including Hawaii, Raiatea, Rapa Nui, Cook Islands, and Aoteraroa, for cultural exchange and co-established the Hawaiian Learning Center at the University of Hawaii School of Social Work. 

Biographic Data

Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan, Sr. was born in Hilo, Hawaii on September 18, 1940 and passed away at his home on August 21, 2018 at the age of 77.

He received a BA in Sociology in 1960 from the University of Hawaii and a MSW from the University of Hawaii School of Social Work in 1962. He was the only Native Hawaiian in the School of Social Work at that time.  He worked at the Salvation Army Boy's Home and then at the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center. 

In 1965, Paglinawan obtained the ACSW from NASW. He was the Chair of the Nominations and Elections committee for NASW, Hawaii Chapter. In 1969 to 1971 he was a member of the Executive Committee for the Hawaii Chapter and in 1974 to 1976 he served as the treasurer for the Hawaii Chapter. 

Significant Recognition and Awards

  • 1972 Meritorious Award for Outstanding Educational Services from the State of Hawaii Department of Education
  • 2002 Ko'olau Loa Outstanding Service Award
  • 2004 National Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education for Asian and Pacific Islanders
  • 2006 Honpa Hongwanji Living Treasure

Significant Publications

  • Paglinawan, R., & Kalauokalani, M., (2005), Lua: Art of the Hawaiian Warrior,  Bishop Museum Press. 
  • Paglinawan, R., & Paglinawan, L. (2012). “Living Hawaiian Rituals:  Lua, Ho’oponopono and Social Work”, Hulili, Vol. 8, Honolulu, Kamehameha Publishing, 11-28.
  • Paglinawan, L., Paglinawan, R., Kauahi, D., & Kanuha, V. (2020). Nana I Ke Kumu, Helu Ekolu (Vol 3), Lili’uokalani Trust.  

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.