Stephen McConnell is Aging Policy and Advocacy Executive for The Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation committed to social justice. McConnell has dedicated his career to eliminating age discrimination and improving access to and quality of health and long term care services for vulnerable older adults. Serving as Co-Chair of the 2010 Robert M. Ball (RMB) Award Event Committee is particularly special for McConnell, because he has known this year’s honoree – John C. Rother – for nearly thirty years.
McConnell and Rother, both sons of protestant ministers, have been colleagues and friends “conspiring” to find policy solutions to the challenges facing the increasingly diverse aging population in the United States. They first met in 1981 when Rother was appointed staff director of the Senate Aging Committee and McConnell was on the staff of the House Aging Committee. Their personal and professional lives have been intertwined ever since. For example, McConnell became staff director of the Senate Aging Committee when Rother was appointed head of policy for AARP in the mid-1980’s, and later served as best man in Rother’s wedding to Chris Williams.
McConnell’s influence on Capitol Hill and his expertise in the private sector have led to critical improvements in aging and long-term care services for the nation’s seniors,” said NASI member Jennifer Zeitzer, former Associate Director for Federal Policy at the Alzheimer’s Association and currently Director of Legislative Relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “His steadfast commitment to creating a better quality of life for older Americans is inspiring the next generation of policymakers to continue to fight for change.”
Prior to joining The Atlantic Philanthropies in July of 2008, McConnell was Vice President for Advocacy and Public Policy at the Alzheimer’s Association. He spent nearly two decades at the Alzheimer’s Association where, after opening the association’s Washington, DC public policy office in 1989, he built one of the voluntary health sector’s largest and most effective advocacy divisions, launched an annual public policy forum and lobby day that brought hundreds of family activists to Washington, DC on behalf of Alzheimer’s, increased the advocacy capacity in the association’s chapters nationwide, and increased more than five-fold the federal research commitment to ending Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to his public policy role, McConnell also directed the Chicago-based association’s program services division from 2000 to 2002, and served as the interim President and CEO in 2002.
McConnell spent seven years on Capitol Hill, first as a professional staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Aging under the chairmanship of Representative Claude Pepper and then as staff director of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging under the chairmanship of Senator John Heinz. During the 1988 Presidential election, McConnell directed the “Long Term Care ’88” campaign, which advocated for a social insurance financing program to cover the devastating costs of long term services and support.
Before coming to Washington in 1980, McConnell held a research associate appointment in the Andrus Gerontology Center of the University of Southern California (USC), where he directed research projects on various aspects of employment, health, housing, and the cultural components of aging. McConnell received his Ph.D. in Sociology from USC and is a founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).
McConnell, who lives on Capitol Hill and recently celebrated his 36th anniversary with his wife, Shirley Fiske, gets away whenever possible for R&R (and an occasional margarita) to Santa Fe, New Mexico, likes to sail, scuba dive and read books (he has been an active member of a book club that has met once-a-month for more than 15 years).
Each year, the Robert M. Ball Award is presented to an individual whose recent work has made a significant impact on the U.S. social insurance system. As co-chair of the 2010 RMB Award Event Committee, McConnell is supporting NASI’s efforts to advance social insurance policies that strengthen economic security for all Americans.