When I became the 16th President of the National Academy of Public Administration in January, 2017, our 50th Anniversary year, one of the first documents I read was Alan Dean’s history of the Academy’s first 25 years. His brief summary of the Academy’s incredible impact over its initial two and half decades left me even more impressed by this organization and its members, but it also left me wanting more. And yet, there wasn’t more…no one had kept the history of the second 25 years! Sure, we had reams of paper documents and virtual stacks of electronic files, but no one had told the story in such a way that it could be shared and passed on.
As I began to ask around about who might take up the pen for such a task, one name kept coming back to me: Scott Fosler. Over lunch one day, I asked, and Scott later agreed. He drafted a general outline in late spring. Over the summer, the Academy’s staff and interns searched the archives; reviewed and indexed thousands of articles, meeting minutes, and reports; scanned hours of video from interviews and events; and provided Scott with volumes of raw content. He miraculously sorted, sifted, culled, and prioritized all of that, and crafted the history you now hold.
From the beginning, we knew this document could not be comprehensive. In the time and pages available, we simply could not capture every event, every report, or the name of every Fellow involved in every facet of the Academy’s myriad activities. What we did want to capture was the essence of the Academy, the arc of its history, its persistence through times of national and organizational stress, and its extraordinary value to the country.
To the Academy’s team, including Elijah Evans, Lisa Trahan, Randy Lyon, Joe Mitchell, and interns David Bilger and Anne Lieber, I offer my thanks. The Fellows who reviewed and edited this document one last time before it went to print have my sincere appreciation. I am most deeply grateful to Scott for his willing spirit, his good humor, and his persistence throughout this project.
Whether your tenure as a Fellow is one year or fifty, I hope you enjoy this story. But more than that, I hope you find it inspiring. It is a compelling story, one filled with hope and commitment and accomplishment, and one that should remind us that “a government that works, and works for all” is worth striving toward for another 50 years.
Teresa W. Gerton
National Academy of Public Administration
The purpose of this history is to record the accomplishments of the Academy, as well as its disappointments. This is intended to illuminate the Academy's value and potential, to acquaint those not familiar with its work about its capabilities, and to inform interested parties of the public interest benefits that would flow from increased support for Academy activities.
This history was intended to be published around the Academy's 25th anniversary, and to end with the appointment of a new Academy President in February 1992. A draft was completed in November 1992 and was widely circulated for comment.
Circumstances prevented the revision of the document to respond to those comments until now. So that readers will not be left in the dark as to what the Academy has been doing during those last five years, there is included as an appendix a list of the studies completed since early 1992. However, no attempt has been made to comment on or evaluate the Academy's work in these recent years.
The author takes full responsibility for the content of the history and the views represented. He has been a Fellow and Senior Fellow since 1968 and served three, non-consecutive terms as a Trustee and three years as Chair of the Board. He has also been active on standing panels as chair or member and has been involved in numerous study projects, either as a panel member or chair, or as a consultant. He chaired the 1976 ad hoc Committee on Evaluation and was a member of the 1985-86 Committee on the Future. Thus, the views presented necessarily reflect his perspective as a participant in many of the events described.
In order to assure a balanced account of the Academy’s first 25 years, the author enjoyed the counsel of an Editorial Advisory Group, chaired by Elmer Staats, to which he is indebted. He is likewise indebted to the former presidents, executive directors and board chairs of NAPA for their suggestions and many factual contributions to the paper. Finally, the November 1992 draft history was sent to a number of current and former Academy leaders and was available to all interested Fellows. Twenty or more made comments, some quite extensive. Academy Fellow Herbert Jasper assisted the author in incorporating changes in response to those valuable comments.
All of the publications listed in the linked document, unless otherwise indicated, are sole products of the National Academy of Public Administration (including Academy panels, study teams, program centers, and other instruments of NAPA work).