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.