By: Laurence Lynn
Having been editor of my high school newspaper, journalism was my earliest notion of a possible career. The first decision I made that shaped my ultimate career as a university professor, however, was to major in economics as an undergraduate at the University of California in Berkeley.
Attracted by the theoretical rigor and social and political relevance of the discipline, I decided to earn a Ph.D. in economics at Yale University. I imagined I would enjoy an academic career in economic research and teaching.
Fate decreed otherwise, however. Because, at my father’s suggestion— “There will be more wars; be an officer,” he told me—I took four years of ROTC at Berkeley, so I was obligated to serve two years on active duty as a U.S. Army infantry officer. That, in turn, brought me into contact, through a Yale faculty intermediary, with Alain Enthoven.
At the time, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was implementing his revolutionary and controversial approach to public management at the Pentagon: the economics-based Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS). Enthoven, who had an MIT economics Ph.D., was in charge of its implementation. My first professional position was working for him, and he became my mentor, inspiring me with his qualities of mind and leadership.
There followed in due course political appointments to positions reporting to Henry Kissinger on the National Security Council staff, Elliot Richardson at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Rogers C.B. Morton at the U.S. Department of the Interior, experiences which deepened my respect for the behavioral and intellectual challenges and importance of public service.
For my public service, I received the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and a Presidential Certificate of Distinguished Achievement.
These experiences were the foundation for my subsequent three-decade academic career and my fellowship in NAPA.
As the Nixon Administration was coming to its untimely end, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University was seeking a senior faculty candidate who combined academic qualifications with relevant government experience. I applied and accepted their offer to become Professor of Public Policy there in January 1975.
In July 1983, I was appointed to a five-year term as Professor and Dean of the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Thereafter, I served as a professor there and at the University’s Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies until June 2002, when I retired as the Sydney Stein, Jr. Professor of Public Management Emeritus.
Finally, I was named the George H. W. Bush Chair and Professor of Public Affairs at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. After five years there, I moved to Austin, Texas to become a Sid Richardson Research Professor, at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin campus, from which I retired from my academic career in 2014.
The topics of my research, teaching, and publications have included policy and program implementation, governance, public management, and comparative public management and policy analysis.
My Book Public Management as Art, Science, and Profession Chatham House, 1996) won a best book award from the U.S. Academy of Management and was influential in moving the field of public policy analysis and management toward more rigorous scholarship.
The second edition of my public management textbook, Public Management: Thinking and Acting in Three Dimensions, co-authored with Carolyn J. Hill, was regarded by a former dean of the U. of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy as “intimidatingly thorough”.
Four books in particular exemplify the kind of contributions I am pleased to have contributed to our profession: Managing the Public's Business: The Job of the Government Executive (1981), Improving Governance: a New Logic for Empirical Research (with Carolyn J. Heinrich and Carolyn J. Hill) (2001), Madison’s Managers: Public Administration and the Constitution (with Anthony M. Bertelli) (2006), and Public Management: Old and New (2006).
Throughout my academic career, I enjoyed being in the classroom, where my students were almost exclusively studying for master’s degrees in schools of public affairs. Rather than lecturing, we discussed teaching cases written for my courses. Two books pull together my thoughts and cases: Designing Public Policy: A Casebook on the Role of Policy Analysis (with Instructors Manual) (Goodyear, 1980) and Teaching and Learning With Cases: A Guidebook (1999). The content of my teaching experience is in a textbook: Public Management: Thinking and Acting in Three Dimensions Second Edition (with Carolyn J. Hill) (2016).
From 2014 to the present, I have turned my full attention to creative writing: short stories and poetry. I have published three poetry collections—Out of my mind: Poems, Older Now, and It takes a Lifetime—and a collection of short stories: An Iberian trilogy and Other Stories. I am currently working on a poetry collection, Mind the Mind: New and Collected Poems, and Footnote to History, an autobiographical short story collection.
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Larry at the beginning of 2023. He was a light in the public administration field and will be deeply missed.
Laurence E. Lynn, Jr. has been the Sydney Stein, Jr. Professor of Public Management Emeritus at the University of Chicago since retiring in 2002 after serving on the faculties of the Harris School and the School of Social Service Administration (SSA), where he was dean from 1983 to 1988. He stepped down as Sid Richardson Research Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, in May 2014, although he continues an affiliation with the School.
His previous faculty affiliations have included the John F. Kennedy School of government at Harvard University, the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and the Manchester (UK) Business School. During his academic career, he also served as a board member, consultant, and committee chair for numerous public and nonprofit agencies, including the National Research Council, the World Bank, and Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council.
Lynn spent nearly a decade in senior policy making positions in the U.S. federal government, including the Department of Defense, where he was a deputy assistant secretary for resource analysis, the National Security Council, where he was director of program analysis, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, where he was assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, and the Department of Interior, where he was assistant secretary for program development and budget. He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1964 to 1966.
Lynn’s most recent books are Public Management: Old and New, Madison’sManagers: Public Administration and the Constitution (with Anthony M. Bertelli, an SSA Ph.D.), and a textbook, Public Management: A Three Dimensional Approach(with Harris School Ph.D. Carolyn J. Hill); a second edition is in preparation. His publications also include serving as editor or co-editor of numerous books, including The Oxford Handbook of Public Management, and an extensive list of journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, essays, working papers, and teaching cases.
For his public service, Lynn received the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and a Presidential Certificate of Distinguished Achievement. For lifetime contributions to public administration research and practice, he was selected as a John Gaus lecturer by the American Political Science Association, a recipient of the Dwight Waldo and Paul Van Riper awards by the American Society for Public Administration, the recipient of the inaugural H. George Frederickson award by the Public Management Research Association, and, most recently, the Charles H. Levine Memorial Lecturer at American University.