Women’s History

When the Academy was founded over thirty years ago, a number of women helped shaped the organization’s mission. In honor of Women’s History Month, we reflect on the women who have helped lead the Academy over the years.  

Meet Founding Member, Ida Merriam: 

Social Security History

Social Security Administration (Social Security Pioneers) https://www.ssa.gov/history/idamer.html

Ida Merriam served for more than three decades in the Social Security Administration’s Office of Research and Statistics, becoming director of that office in 1955, and assistant commissioner for research from 1963 until her retirement in 1972. Merriam built SSA’s research program into one recognized as among the best in government. Many social insurance researchers, especially those who served on the Academy’s organizing committee and founding board 35 years ago, were inspired by Merriam’s work. She provided invaluable service to guide the Academy’s research objectives and to help build the Academy’s library and endowment fund. 

Janice Gregory

President (2009-2012) 

Prior to becoming President of the Academy in 2009, Gregory served as Senior Vice President for the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), an organization that represents the health and retirement plans of major corporations. Gregory directed legislative affairs at the ERISA Industry Committee from 1984 through 2006. From 1979 through 1983, she coordinated activities of the Subcommittee on Social Security for its Chairman, the Honorable J.J. Pickle of Texas. She was awarded the Social Security Administration Commissioner’s Citation in 1984. She is also a contributing author to Prospects for Social Security Reform and Checks and Balances in Social Security, and principal author of The Vital Connection: An Analysis of the Impact of Social Security Reform on Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans and Getting the Job Done: A White Paper on Emerging Pension Issues. Gregory is a founding member of the Academy. 

Renée Landers

Board Chair (2021-Current) 

Having served the Academy in many roles since her election to membership, including Board Chair, Vice Chair, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Co-Principal Investigator for the Medicare Eligibility Study Panel with Elizabeth Docteur, and as a member of numerous study panels, Landers has helped to forge the Academy’s leadership in the study of Medicare’s role in eliminating health care disparities. She has also been a consistent, respected voice on legal developments in constitutional law, health law, and administrative law for media organizations. She has received awards from Radcliffe College, Boston College Law School, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network. Today, she is a professor of law and Faculty Director of the Health and Biomedical Law Concentration at Suffolk University Law School.  

Pamela Larson

Executive Vice President & CEO (1987-2015) 

For the first 28 years of the Academy’s operations, Pamela Larson directed the Academy – first serving as Executive Vice President then as its first Chief Executive Officer. Larson worked closely with the Academy’s Members, Board, and staff to implement its programs on leadership development, public understanding, policy education, and fundraising initiatives. Before coming to the Academy, she was Director of Membership Services for the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Prior to that, she served as Director of Long-Term Care Services, Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging, and as a Health Services Specialist for the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Funds. Larson also taught Medicare policy at Florida State University and wrote articles on work and retirement research for Aging Today. She has published articles on long-term care and co-edited two of the Academy’s conference volumes: National Health Reform: What Should the State Role Be?, and The Future of Social Insurance: Incremental Action of Fundamental Reform?  A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 1993, Larson received her masters of regional planning from Cornell University. 

Lisa Mensah

Board Chair (2010-2013) 

When Lisa Afua Serwah Mensah was elected Board Chair of the Academy, she was also the founding Executive Director of the Initiative on Financial Security at the Aspen Institute. An expert in using financial tools to improve the economic security of the working poor, Mensah has experience in the private financial sector and has worked extensively on small and micro business development, housing, financial and savings policy. Mensah was served as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development during the Obama Administration. At the USDA, she led three agencies charged with improving the economic wellbeing of rural America: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Together, these agencies provide critical infrastructure investments in the form of loans and grants for rural housing, high-speed broadband access, telephone, electric and water utilities, renewable energy generation and conservation, local and regional food systems, community facilities, and small business development in rural America. Mensah is currently the President and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network, a national network of community development financial institutions investing in jobs housing and infrastructure in lowincome communities. Mensah began her career in commercial banking at Citibank prior to working 13 years with the Ford Foundation. A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 2005, Mensah served on the Uncharted Waters study panel. 

Marilyn Moon

President (2005-2007) 

One of the country’s top experts on Medicare and social insurance, Marilyn Moon was elected eighth President of the Academy while she was also Vice President and Director of the American Institutes for Research. A nationally-known economist and highly-regarded expert on Medicare, aging, consumer health issues, and health care financing, Moon also wrote a column in The Washington Post answering questions on health care coverage from 1993 to 2001. Her numerous contributions to public understanding of social insurance were recognized with the 2014 Robert M. Ball Award. A founding member of the Academy, Moon served on the Steering Committee for Academy’s multi-year project on “Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term, and as chair of the Study Panel on Financing Medicare. Most recently, Moon served as co-chair of the Medicare Eligibility Study Panel with Cori Uccello 

Alicia Munnell

President and Founding Board Member (1988-1990)

Working closely with Robert M. Ball and the Academy’s organizing committee, Munnell served as the Academy’s first president. She believed the Academy was needed particularly because the nation’s first generation of social insurance professionals were aging, and too few replacements were coming along. Along with Nancy Altman, another member of the Founding Board, Munnell hired the Academy’s first Executive Vice President, Pamela Larson. At the time of the Academy’s founding, Munnell was senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Munnell also served as assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department and was a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. Munnell received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1973. Today, Munnell is Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and writes a column for Market Watch. She continues to be a thought leader in retirement policy. 

Margaret Simms

President (2007-2009)

When Margaret Simms became President of the Academy in 2007, she was also Vice President for Research at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, DC that focuses on policy issues of special concern to African Americans and other minorities. A nationally recognized expert on the economic well-being of African Americans, Simms spent 21 years with the Joint Center in a number of leadership positions. Simms was also an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute and director of the Institute's Low-Income Working Families project until April 2018. She has edited many books and monographs, including Job Creation Prospects and Strategies” (with Wilhelmina Leigh); "Economic Perspectives on Affirmative Action"; and Slipping Through the Cracks: The Status of Black Women (with Julianne Malveaux). Simms was active in the National Economic Association and the American Economic Association where she worked to increase the representation of African Americans within the profession. A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 1994, Simms earned her masters degree and doctorate in economics at Stanford University.  

Virginia Reno

Vice President for Policy (1990-2015) 

Virginia Reno served as Vice President for Income Security and led the Academy’s work on retirement income, workers’ compensation, disability insurance and related programs for over two and a half decades. Her insight, dedication, and leadership were instrumental in shaping the Academy’s research and helping the Academy become known for objective, thorough analysis of significant issues. Reno directed the Academy’s landmark study, Uncharted Waters: Paying Benefits from Individual Accounts in Federal Retirement Policy, which was highly acclaimed by individuals on all sides of the Social Security debate. She also directed the Academy’s study of the Social Security disability programs, culminating in a report that became the blueprint for many of the changes enacted in the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999. More recently she oversaw the Academy’s groundbreaking public opinion surveys on what Americans want for Social Security — and are willing to pay for. Reno served as Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the Social Security Administration (SSA) from 2015-2017. As Deputy Commissioner, Reno directed and managed the planning, development, and issuance of operational policy and instructions for the SSDI and SSI programs and initiatives to improve the economic well-being of beneficiaries. In addition, Reno was the principal advisor to the Commissioner of Social Security on major policy issues and activities in the areas of strategic policy planning, policy research and evaluation, statistical programs, and overall policy development and analysis. At the Academy, Reno implemented targeted educational outreach to help current and future recipients better understand the role of Social Security in promoting income and retirement security. Furthermore, Reno’s research on the Social Security program’s solvency and on benefit adequacy helped to broaden the public policy discussion around Social Security. 

Elizabeth Wickenden

Founding Board Member

Known as “Wicky,” Elizabeth Wickenden held administrative posts in a succession of New Deal agencies. She was a member of the federal Advisory Council on Public Welfare during the 1960s and President John F. Kennedy’s Task Force on Health and Social Security Legislation. As a consultant on public social policy, she analyzed and interpreted policy and legislation and promoted social action. Wickenden was one of the Founding Board Members of our Academy. 

Leave A Comment

How can we help you?

Media Inquiries
Sponsorship Opportunities

Stay up-to-date on the latest research & policy updates.

Subscribe to our newsletter