Recognizing Excellence in Records & Information Management
The selection of the annual Emmett Leahy Award recipient is the exclusive responsibility of the Emmett Leahy Award Committee, an independent entity not affiliated with any other organization.
The Leahy Award Committee is composed of past award recipients. Members of the Committee for the 2019 Award are:
Rodd Exelbert, who was publisher/editor for United Business Publications and a tireless promoter of the use of microfilm in records management, originated the Emmett J. Leahy Award in 1967. The previous year Exelbert joined the PTN Corporation and foundedInformation And Records Management (ICRM). Exelbert attended the 1966 ARMA Convention in Houston and heard Christopher Cameron, the Managing Partner of Leahy & Company, give a presentation on the work of Emmett J. Leahy. This resonated with Exelbert because he was casting about for a way for Information and Records Management to recognize and spotlight extraordinary contributions to the records management profession.
That night Exelbert had dinner with Milton Reitzfeld, who worked at Leahy Business Archives, and they talked about the new magazine. Exelbert told him that he was thinking about giving recognition to Leahy through his new magazine by sponsoring an annual award to "a man or woman whose unique contributions to records control, filing, and information retrieval have advanced the information and records management profession." Reittzfield thought the award was a good idea and agreed to approach Chris Cameron about the award. Cameron liked the idea and then consulted Betty White, Leahy's widow. She liked the idea and so the Everett J. Leahy Award came into being.
In the spring of 1967 Exelbert convened a committee of records management experts in New York City to select the first recipient. The criteria the committee developed included:
This committee of records management experts drew upon their knowledge of individuals working in records management to compile a list of candidates and to evaluate them in accordance with the criteria.
At the 1967 ARMA Annual Meeting in New York City Information and Records Management (IRM) hosted a luncheon where Ed Rosse of the Social Security Administration was announced as the first recipient of the Emmett Leahy Award. Berry White, Leahy's widow, made the presentation to Rosse.
The first Emmett Leahy Award was a plaque that displays a likeness of Leahy (see right) and contained the award citation:
For His Outstanding Contributions
To The Advancement Of The Information and Records Management Profession
Information and Records Management Magazine
Between 1967 and 1980 the only change in the Emmett Leahy Award plaque was the name of the recipient and the date of the award. However, Exelbert introduced changes in the selection procedure. He began to include at least one Emmett Leahy Award recipient on the selection committee. More importantly, he began to use IRM to publicize the award and to solicit nominations. He invited readers to contribute to the selection of the Leahy Award recipient by submitting a nomination along with the reasons for the nomination. This resulted in dozens of nominations and greatly widened the scope of the Emmett Leahy Award.
IRM sponsorship of the Leahy Award provided an important vehicle for publicizing the award but actual funding of expenses, such as printing brochures and making each plaque, was a continuous challenge for Exelbert. Committee members as well as recipients of the Leahy Award had to pay their own travel expenses. This undoubtedly helps explain why most committee members came from organizations that would fund the travel costs. One Leahy Award Committee member was employed by the National Archives and Records Service and he was able to participate in the Leahy Award Committee deliberations by scheduling travel to New York City for official agency business during the week of the Committee meeting.
In 1980 Exelbert decided to leave the IRM Magazine and move to Florida to work as a communications consultant. With Exelbert's departure, the PTN Publishing Corporation, corporate owner of the Information and Records Management, declined to continue sponsorship of the Leahy Award. About the same time ARMA leadership decided to sever the relationship with the Leahy Award. From ARMA's perspective it was inappropriate for a private business to use the ARMA venue for presentation of an award that ARMA had no role in the selection process. In addition, there was some concern about the Leahy Award competing against ARMA awards such as Records Manager of the Year. These two decisions effectively ended the Leahy Award in 1980.
During the fifteen years (1966 - 1980) that Rodd Exelbert was Editor/Publisher of Information and Records Management there were fourteen recipients of the Leahy Award. There are two distinguishing features about these fourteen Leahy Award winners that merit attention. First, without exception these Leahy Award winners were employed by organizations that had large scale records centers/library programs. Second, they had hands-on operational responsibilities for organizing and running these programs. For more information about these recipients of the Leahy Award see Past Recipients.
The Emmett Leahy Award, 1981