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Harry P. Hatry, Leader and Performance Management Pioneer, dies at 92

On Tuesday evening, we got a phone call to tell us that Harry P. Hatry, the renowned, respected and remarkable leader in the world of #performancemanagement had died, at age 92, from complications that followed a case of pneumonia.


That call came from his life partner, Carol Lee Rubin, who went on to tell us that Harry had asked that we write an obituary for him, when the time came. For years, Harry had been a supporter, colleague and mentor of ours, and so we were honored by the request.


We followed through, and wrote a testimonial to Harry for Carol (which can be read in its entirety here.)





Harry Hatry, a pioneer of great renown in the field of performance management

died on February 20th from complications resulting from pneumonia. He was born

on October 12, 1930, the son of May June Hatry and William August Hatry.


His career spanned over 60 years, during which time he worked with a wide range

of local state and federal agencies – internationally and nationally – to help provide

them with the capacity to measure the success and failure of their efforts in such

services as public safety, health, transportation, education, parks and recreation,

social services, environmental protection, and economic development.


Upon his graduation with a BS in engineering from Yale University, Hatry began

working for a General Electric research facility in Santa Barbara. He also earned an

MS from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He served for two

years in the army at the White Sand Proving Grounds in New Mexico after which

he became part of the then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s Whiz kids; a

group which advised McNamara in his efforts to turn around the management of

the Department of Defense in the 1960s.


When the Urban Institute was created in 1968, Hatry became program director

focusing on public management issues at local, state and federal levels, and

continued to work with the Institute until a month before his death after a brief

illness.


In those early years, “when I spoke with people in states and localities all

over the country, many hadn’t heard of the Institute, but they had heard of Harry

Hatry,” recalled long-time colleague at the Urban Institute and friend Randall

Bovbjerg, “He was self-effacing, intensely practical, highly collegial and was

interested in a wide variety of subject areas.”


Over his career he accumulated a number of honors and awards including the

American Society for Public Administration’s “Outstanding Contributor to the

Literature of Management Science and Policy Science” award in 1984; the Elmer

B. Staats award for excellence in program evaluation in 1985; a National Public

Service Award in 1993; and the “Evaluator of the Year” award from the

Washington (D.C.) Evaluators Association in 1996. In 1999, the Center for

Accountability and Performance of the American Society of Public Administration

established the Harry Hatry Award for Distinguished Practice in Performance

Management.


Said the most recent recipient of that award, John Kamensky, another pioneer in

performance management, “He was constantly working on new projects in a wide

array of policy areas at the Urban Institute, flying across the country and around

the world. Staff had a hard time keeping up with his pace – both in writing and in

walking! New, young staff were awed, and sometimes terrified, of his constant

questions and pressure to move faster.”


In 1980, he became a fellow with the National Academy of Public Administration

(NAPA) where he contributed to a number of white papers and studies. “The

National Academy of Public Administration is saddened to learn of Harry’s

passing,” said NAPA’s executive director Terry Gerton. “He was an active Fellow

for over 40 years, always willing to contribute his expertise to any project and

especially supportive of our Standing Panels on the Intergovernmental System and

Executive Organization and Management.  Our government is better because Harry

cared so much about evaluating its performance.  We will miss his warm smile and

his brilliant mind.”


Others in the field of performance management joined in a chorus of plaudits for

Hatry’s work, and his level-headed approach to a complex world.


“He was a valuable and inspiring mentor to me,” said Kathryn Newcomer, professor at The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George

Washington University. “For over thirty years I looked to him for guidance and

practical advice. He was the Forrest Gump of performance measurement in our

country - and was literally there when all key moments of importance to our field

happened and he retold them to me - giving me an oral history that I treasure.”


Recalled Don Moynihan, McCourt Chair of Public Policy at Georgetown

University, “Harry was an exceptionally kind and modest person despite his outsize

reputation. He was always encouraging and looking to learn from others. He will

be deeply missed by those of us who cared about trying to make government work

better.”


Added Shelley Metzenbaum, an American nonprofit executive, academic, and

former government official specializing in public sector performance management,

“Harry called for increased attention to outcome measurement and management as

early as the 1970’s and remained a prolific contributor to thinking and practice on

this topic throughout his life, remarkably even into his 90s. We will miss Harry’s

persistence and tenacity advancing good government.”

   

Jay Fountain, another pioneer in performance management was a colleague of

Hatry’s for about four decades. ”I have been fortunate to know and work with

wonderful professional people all dedicated to making government more responsive to the citizens and effective in providing service, and Harry was in the

forefront.”


He leaves his beloved life partner of 35 years, Carol Lee Rubin, his sister Patricia

Hatry, a great many family members, as well as a world of state, local and federal

employees who will forever miss his counsel, wisdom and boundless energy.


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