rthur Sherwood Flemming was not yet 30 years old when he approached the Rockefeller Foundation with a vision. With support from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Flemming wanted to kick-start a new program at American University. The AU alumnus came away with a grant of $4,000, enough to open the School of Public Affairs in 1934.
Flemming was SPA’s first director. He went on to serve in a number of key government roles in a career that would span seven decades and 11 presidencies. His life in government service began in 1939 when President Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. He served as the third U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare between 1958-1961. Flemming’s final appointment culminated as chair of the Commission on Civil Rights from 1974-1981. He also served as the president of two universities beyond SPA during his lifetime, Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Oregon.
His legacy is commemorated in the Arthur S. Flemming Award. Established in 1948, the award honors outstanding federal employees who embody Flemming’s personal commitment to public service.