Many of you have seen the AEA announcement of the passing of Eleanor Chelimsky on March 6, 2022 at age 95 following a long illness. Eleanor brought me into the U.S. Government Accountability Office to work in the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division and launched my career in evaluation. She was wise, eloquent in speaking and writing on evaluation, and skillful at working in a charged political environment. Her passion for evaluation was immense and infectious.
Right before the AEA announcement you will find a link to a Tube video that Michael Patton has put together to try to communicate to those newer to evaluation the enormity of Eleanor’s impact on the profession and transdiscipline of evaluation. He has pulled together some of her writings and clips from interviews with her into a YouTube video in hopes of making her insights and wisdom more accessible to those coming into evaluation and an opportunity for veterans of evaluation to remember and re-experience some of what she so generously and thoughtfully gave to our global community.
Michael admits that by YouTube norms, it’s a long video (56 minutes), but he edited it down from more than 4 hours of profound material! We hope many of you will view it. Michael says: “I invite you to find a quiet hour to immerse yourself in her wisdom. Consider, if you will, resisting the temptation to skim and fast forward. She was on Earth for 95 years. Visit with her for an hour. Savor her words and spirit. “
Linda Morra Imas
Interim President, IEAc
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our colleague, Eleanor Chelimsky, on March 6, 2022.
Eleanor Chelimsky (née Fine) died March 6, 2022 at home with her son and daughter-in-law after a long illness. She was born July 9, 1926 in New York, the youngest child of Charles and Mary Fine and younger sister of Naomi. Eleanor was an accomplished concert pianist at an early age. The New York Times complimented her debut at Town Hall on November 10, 1941 at age 15. She continued her career as a pianist playing solos with orchestras around Europe. After her marriage to Oscar Chelimsky, the couple moved to Paris right after World War II, Eleanor supported by a Fulbright Scholarship and Oscar by the GI Bill. Though they had planned a one-year stay, they remained in France for 22 years where they had two children, Thomas in 1956 and Catherine in 1960. In 1962, Eleanor took a job as a secretary at the American Embassy in Paris, eventually worked for the MITRE Corporation and then became a statistical analyst at NATO. The family moved to Brussels with NATO in 1968.
They returned to the States in 1970 when Eleanor became a research manager at the MITRE Corporation. In the last segment of her career, she was director for 14 years of the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division of the General Accountability Office, which she directed as a United States Assistant Comptroller General until her retirement in 1994. She was a pioneer of North American Evaluation and served as President of the American Evaluation Association (1995) and President of the Evaluation Research Society. In 2013, the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS) launched the Eleanor Chelimsky Forum on Evaluation Theory and Practice.
During her tenure, Eleanor generated over 300 evaluations of government policies and programs for congress and developed new methods for evaluation. She conducted in-depth research in many areas including evaluation theory and practice and its relationship to public policy. To this day she would say she was most proud of the work that defeated chemical warfare in the US. She received many awards for her work including the Comptroller General’s Award in 1991 for innovative approaches to evaluating government policies and the American Eagle Award from President George H.W. Bush. She loved evaluation fiercely and continued to work in the field well into her 90s. She published a consultation piece on global warming three months prior to her death.
Eleanor spent her entire life a devoted wife to Oscar Chelimsky and loving mother to Catherine Fallick (Bruce) and Thomas Chelimsky (Gisela). She is survived by her son and daughter as well as her five grandchildren, Miriam Chelimsky (Richard), Hannah Chelimsky (Matthew), Jeremy “Ozzie” Aery Fallick (Emily), Emily Fallick, and Charlotte Fallick. She instilled a love for literature, poetry, art, history, and classic movies in her grandkids, always ensuring they knew they were empowered to achieve what they set their minds on.
In lieu of flowers, the Chelimsky family asks that donations be made to the American Evaluation Association, an organization dear to Eleanor’s heart. Donations will support an initiative to honor the legacy of Eleanor Chelimsky and her contributions to the field of evaluation.