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Memorial Week: Charmagne Campbell-Patton on Remembering Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, Pioneers in Evaluation Research

This is final post in the series remembering and honoring evaluation pioneers in conjunction with Memorial Day in the USA (May 30).

My name is Charmagne Campbell-Patton and I am an independent evaluation consultant. Last year was my first time attending the AEA annual conference including the Awards luncheon. I realized that I didn’t know anything about the people whose names give the awards their meaning and prestige so I set out to learn about them.

AEA Paul F. Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award: Presented to an individual whose written work on evaluation theory has led to fruitful debates on the assumptions, goals, and practices of evaluation.

Paul F. Lazarsfeld

Paul Lazarsfeld (1901-1976), a sociologist, founded Columbia University‘s Bureau of Applied Social Research. He was a pioneer in the idea that social science could be applied to solving social problems. The Evaluation Research Society (ERS), predecessor of AEA, created the Award. Eleanor Chelimsky, an ERS founder and president, recalls: “Those in ERS who knew him were struck by his sense of audiences, how they are different, how message-effectiveness depends on an understanding of those differences, and how we should pay a lot more attention to this issue. This was at a time when evaluation was focused on `the right method,’ not use and communication with stakeholders.”

AEA Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Government Evaluation Award and AEA Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Evaluation Practice Award: Presented to an evaluator who exemplifies outstanding evaluation practice and who has made substantial cumulative contributions.

Alva & Gunnar Myrdal
Alva & Gunnar Myrdal

Alva Myrdal (1902 – 1986) was a sociologist, member of the Swedish Parliament, and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize.

Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) was a sociologist and economist who received the 1974 Nobel Prize in Economics for pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations. He studied race relations in the USA which culminated in An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, a book influential in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that desegregated schools.
Eleanor Chilemsky recalls that “in establishing the ERS Myrdal prizes, the members had universal admiration for The American Dilemma. It was an important and courageous effort to draw attention to the continuing problem of race in America, and to the tension between the reality of political and economic discrimination, on the one hand, and the moral belief in freedom, and equality under the law, on the other.”

(Note: The Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator and Robert Ingle Service Awards have been covered in previous posts in this In Memoriam series.)


AEA Paul F. Lazarsfeld Evaluation Theory Award


Paul F. Lazarsfeld:

AEA Alva and Gunnar Myrdal Evaluation Practice Award:


Alva Myrdal: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1982/myrdal-bio.html

Gunnar Myrdal (1944) An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.

Gunnar Myrdal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunnar_Myrdal

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Memorial Week in Evaluation: Remembering and Honoring Evaluation’s Pioneers. The contributions this week are remembrances of evaluation pioneers who made enduring contributions to our field. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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