Elsie Herman

1921 – 1998

Pioneer social worker and dedicated educator and mentor

In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Elsie Spira Herman was a pioneering practitioner with a private practice in social work, psychotherapy and marriage and family counseling. She helped define the term “clinical social worker” in California having served on a committee of NASW to develop standards for private practice.

A native of Chicago, Herman earned a bachelor’s degree in psychotherapy and a master’s in social work at the University of Chicago. During World War II, she began working for the American Red Cross, counseling families of servicemen who had been killed or injured. She also counseled farm workers in the sugar beet fields of Colorado and war brides in New York who were abandoned. While employed in New York, she married her husband Edmund and the couple moved to San Diego, California where she opened her private practice in 1950.

Herman served as the clinical director of Jewish Family Services of San Diego for nine years. While there, she worked extensively with children, adolescents and adult groups conducting family life education discussion groups.

A dedicated educator, Herman joined the faculty of the School of Social Work at San Diego State University in 1966. She was one of the school’s founding faculty and contributed extensively to the development of the school’s curriculum. In over 20 years as an instructor, Herman served as a mentor to many professionals and graduate students, sharing her expertise that earned her the first Lifetime Achievement Award conferred by the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

With a generosity of spirit and a willingness to give untiringly of her time and energy to professional service, she provided hundreds of volunteer hours to a variety of agencies and organizations. She was a consultant to the staff of the California Fair Employment Commission, and was a loyal and dedicated NASW member making substantial contributions to the organization by either chairing or serving on local, state and national committees and task groups. Elsie Herman was a warm, open person who brought out the best in people. She always worked to improve the quality of services to clients.

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