Remarks by Christine Ardern, 2002 Emmett Leahy Award Winner

on the occasion of presenting the 2018 Emmett Leahy Award to Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson

When Charles Dollar told us that he would not be able to attend because of eye surgery, Jason asked me to step in and talk a little bit about the award, the transition to more international recipients and what the award had meant to me.  Many of you know Charles and in addition to his many other interests, he has a keen appreciation for Emmett Leahy and his work.  Much of the historical information currently on the Leahy website is thanks to Charles. 


The one comment I would make about the award is that the Emmett Leahy Committee is totally independent of any association.  It has, as Jason has said, been sponsored over its lifetime but decisions about the recipient are made by the previous 10 winners of the award.

I decided that in order to put the “international” into context, it would help to provide some background.  So I looked at the winners, prior to 2002, to see where they were from and what they were recognized for.  I also looked the environment in which RM programs existed.  The evolution of the award program corresponded to the changing environment of RM, technology and overall communications globally.  So who were some of those early pioneers recognized between 1967 and 2002?[1]

In 1967, RM activities focused on paper and computers were housed in huge rooms, managed through the IT departments and punch cards.  Electronic records were not even a consideration at that point.  Jason mentioned Edward Rosse (1967) as the first recipient who won for the design and installation of a Computer Output Microfilm (COM) system in the US Social Security Administration.  I’ve highlighted a few others:


  • Bill Benedon (1969) was an icon in the RM community for authoring the first records management act in the State of New Jersey.  He was author of one of the, if not the first records management textbooks, and he is remembered for initiating RM workshops at ARMA International.
  • Loretta Kiersky (1971) was the first woman to receive the award, honored for her participation in standards development through her work with the National Microfilm Association (formerly NMA, now AIIM) and the Special Libraries Association.
  • Anneliese Arenburg (1989) was the first Canadian to win the award for her work in promoting records management practices in the Canadian private sector.
  • Peter A. Smith (1996) was the first Australian to win the award for his work in developing a program for sharing information across local government in New South Wales.  He  subsequently developed the first formal records management course at Newcastle Technical and Further Education (TAFE), which evolved into a national records management program with 22 modules available to all states.


While there are too many names to list here, it’s interesting to look at some of the work that winners are recognized for:


  • Creating a “calculated risk” to records management techniques that identified “low value records” that could be destroyed and a cost benefit technique for reviewing and approving forms and reports.  Imagine, that was in 1972.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!
  • Developing and implementing the first records management software solution.
  • Creating legal reference resources and white papers on storing records on alternate media (at that time, imaging was the option with paper as the source document).


In 2002 I received the award for my work on standards, for my participation on the creation of a museum and archival supplies handbook, for teaching RM to the archives, museum and library communities, and for obtaining tax exemptions for archival supplies into Canada.  I had been ARMA International Director from 1993 until 1997 and became ARMA President in 1998, and had come in contact with records managers and archivists globally through IRMS, ICA and RMAA.   At the same time, other members of the Committee were participating on international committees and sharing information was becoming much easier. 

The Committee has expanded its searches to reach out to organizations outside North America.  Looking at the list of recipients since 2002, we have winners from Australia, Canada, England, Italy and the US.  We also began to look outside our own “traditional” community to recognize where RM and related activities were instrumental.  It is interesting to see the different backgrounds of the winners. Two examples include: 


  • Jason R. Baron, a lawyer whose work on the PROFS case changed the face of email recordkeeping in government, while his work in eDiscovery advocating advanced forms of search tools  complemented his RM activities.
  • David Giaretta, a physicist whose work on the challenges of maintaining space research data, resulted in the development of the OAIS model for digital archives and papers and publications on digital preservation.


My last comment is related to a question Jason asked me to address:  What did winning the award mean to me.   I have to say that being asked to submit was an honor and one of the biggest challenges I had was blowing my own horn and showing the impact!!!  I am an introvert, and writing something that told everyone what my impact was made me acknowledge my own accomplishments.   Members of the Committee are leaders in the community and it was a wonderful experience to spend time with such accomplished individuals from so many backgrounds and countries.  I learned a great deal at each meeting, both about the profession and committee dynamics.  And being on the Committee taught me more about management and negotiating than any course would!  I made some wonderful new friends and was introduced to so many new aspects of the profession, which helped me in my own consulting work.

We have succeeded in not only being “international” but also expanding into other professions.  And things will continue to change as we take on new challenges and collaborate more and more.


Ten years may seem a long time to participate on something like this but it was a terrific experience and Trudy, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

[1] Details about the Award and its recipients can be found at www.emmettleahyaward.org