Presentation of the Emmett Leahy Award to John McDonald

October 24, 1999


Introductory Remarks
Robert Williams, Chair, 1999 Leahy Awards Committee


As Chairman of the 1999 Leahy Award Committee, it is with great pleasure that I stand before you - the leaders of the records management profession - to present the 1999 Leahy Award, the highest honor of professional achievement in information and records management.  Before I make the presentation, however, I would like to briefly share with you a few thoughts about Emmett Leahy. Very few of us knew him, so it is appropriate that we reflect on the attributes he manifested and, which the Committee believes are also, manifested in this year's recipient.


 By every standard Emmett Leahy was a pioneer. He was, together with General Wood the Head of Sears Roebuck, one of the key members of the legendary Hoover Commission to streamline and improve the effectiveness of government.  Emmett Leahy was a visionary, realizing in the 1930's and 40's with such others as Thomas Watson Sr., of IBM, the importance of the information and the business opportunity that existed to better manage this critically important business and government asset.  Emmett Leahy also was a person of extraordinary accomplishment. In addition to his work with the Federal Government, He was a founder of Leahy Archives which he helped develop into one of the nation's foremost records management services.  Emmett Leahy did all of this. It is, in the spirit of great respect for what he accomplished, that we honor Emmett Leahy with the most prestigious award for professional achievement in information and records management.


As we give this year's award, let me tell you, in behalf of the nine other members of the Award Committee who are Patricia Acton, Anneliese Arenburg, Jim Coulson, Fred Diers, Frank Evans, Mark Langemo, Ira Penn, Donald Skupsky, Peter Smith and David Goodman, that the evaluation and selection process was done entirely and exclusively by the Committee. Pierce Leahy Archives, in supporting this award, sought no influence and had no influence in the selection process. Pierce Leahy's sole objective has been to support the Award Committee and its selection of the recipient who reflected Emmett Leahy's extraordinary qualities.

This year's Leahy Award recipient is a first: he is the first winner to be recognized for his accomplishments in the field of electronic records management. This is additionally important because it is electronic records management that increasingly will be "our world".  So to have a person win this award at this still early time in the era of electronic records management means that this person's professional work to date will be very influential upon the future profession of records management.


One of the most important criteria that the Leahy Award Committee looks for is impact on the profession of records management. With many professional years remaining, this year's winner has already had what must be described as "an extraordinary impact" on the profession to date - and with the passage of time, that impact will only grow.

How do you have impact on the profession of records management? Clearly, you must accomplish a great deal - a great deal, not just in behalf of your employers, but a great deal that influences and benefits others - your professional peers and your associates.

  • For many nominees, professional impact takes the form of professional articles; for a few, it includes writing books.
  • For most nominees, professional impact also includes educational presentations at conferences and seminars; for a few, it includes organizing and creating such events.
  •  For many nominees, professional impact includes participating in professional standards work; for a few, it is truly establishing new standards.
  •  For many nominees, professional impact means actively participating in professional organizations; for a few, it is leading such organizations.

This year's recipient is one of the "few" in all of these important measurements of impacting the profession of records management. But this person is more. As Emmett Leahy was a true pioneer in the profession of records management, this year's recipient also is.  He has been is pioneer in electronic records management:

  • In setting up effective programs,
  • In establishing standards, In sharing information through many articles and several books,
  • In sharing his experiences with others at professional meetings,
  • and maybe most importantly - something that very few have the opportunity to do - to be like Emmett Leahy in having a vision of "what should be" and having the tenacity to make it a reality.

There is so much that one can say about this year's winner. On this occasion of presenting the award, it is appropriate that we reflect on a few of the highlights of what has been a brilliant professional career.   For more than fifteen years, he has been a leader in one the world's most progressive electronic records management efforts.  In the Archives community, he is recognized worldwide for his pioneering leadership and his tireless efforts to address the unique challenges of electronic records.  In the records management community, he has brought an incisive new dimension to the profession - in his native country and in many other nations around the world.


All of this is very important, but before I announce this year's winner, I want to share a few words with you about this person as an individual.

  • In an era, when we are all extraordinarily busy, he always finds time to help.
  • In an era when speed is the focus of our attention, he always makes sure that quality is first.
  •  In and era of total professional dedication, he has retained a wonderful personal touch to all that he does - and in so doing had been someone who could always be counted on for leadership, quality and vision.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating the winner of the 1999 Emmett Leahy Award, Director of the Information Management Standards and Practices Division of the National Archives of Canada, John McDonald.