Mary Helen Callahan Distinguished Service Award

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Dr. Mary Helen Callahan

This award was established by the Governing Board in 2009 to celebrate the distinguished service and leadership of Mary Helen Callahan, Executive Director of the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) from 1980 until 2000.

The award is given periodically to an individual who has provided an outstanding record of service to UAA and/or the field of urban affairs.

DEADLINE: September 18, 2023 (11:59pm CST) – Last day to submit a nomination

Step 1: Review the Eligibility Guidelines
Step 2: Submit a Nomination
Award Benefits
Selection Process
Past Recipients
Eligibility Guidelines

The award will be given on a periodic basis to an individual who has provided an outstanding record of service to UAA and/or the field of urban affairs.

We are looking for nominees who have distinguished themselves in one or more of the following areas:

  1. exceptional and impactful service to the Urban Affairs Association;
  2. engagement outside the academy; 
  3. distinguished professional service that advances the work of urban affairs practitioners.
Nomination Instructions

Nominations can be made by any UAA member. To submit a nomination, you will need to provide:

  1. Information about the nominee: nominee’s name, professional title, institutional affiliation, and email address; and
  2. Nominee’s curriculum vita; and,
  3. Three (3) letters of support. Each letter must be no more than 1500 words in length. Do NOT include more than three letters. Only three letters will be forwarded to the award committee for review. You must upload all three letters in order to complete the nomination form. Incomplete nomination forms will not be forwarded for review.
Submit a Nomination


Prior Nominees

All nominations made within the past three (3) years, will be given full review and consideration. For this year’s selection process, previous nominations will be considered for submissions made in:  2021, 2022, and 2023.

If a nomination was made prior to the three years noted above, a new nomination must be submitted to receive consideration by the committee. Each new nomination will remain in the nominee pool for three years (including the year of nomination).

To verify the year of any nomination, contact the UAA Executive Office at

Award Benefits

The award recipient receives:

  • A special award plaque
  • A lifetime UAA membership (valued at $83 USD each year)
  • A lifetime complimentary registration waiver (including meal + reception tickets) valued at $500+ USD each year

The plaque will be presented at the Annual Awards Program held during the UAA conference. Following the conference, a press release will be prepared announcing the recipient.

Selection Process

The Governing Board will identify and select recipients for the award. The UAA Executive Office will inform recipients of the award decision.

Past Recipients

(2022) David Varady

David Varady (University Of Cincinnati)

David Varady is Emeritus Professor of Community Planning at the University of Cincinnati. He is author of  twelve books, 75 journal articles and about 120 book reviews on neighborhood development, segregation, and low-income housing policies. Professor Varady has held Visiting Scholar positions at the University of Porto (Portugal), TU-Delft (Netherlands), City of Helsinki, Rutgers University, University of Glasgow, the National Association of Realtors, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since 2005, Varady has been Book Review Editor for the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Read the UAA award press release

(2020) Margaret Wilder

Distinguished Service Award Winner 2020, Margaret Wilder

Dr. Margaret Wilder began her involvement in UAA during her early faculty years in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. She accepted the position at IU teaching land use planning and urban studies after completing her PhD in Geography and Planning in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. Prior to her Michigan days, she had spent all of her life in Texas and attained M.A. and B.A. degrees from University of Texas-Arlington. Her early work on state economic development strategies formed the basis for several UAA conference presentations that cemented her attachment to the organization. Her research garnered best paper awards from both UAA and the Journal of the American Planning Association. After accepting a position at Cornell University and attaining tenure there, Dr. Wilder served on several UAA committees and was elected to the Governing Board, eventually assuming the role of Board Chair. Subsequent professional positions at SUNY-Albany and University of Delaware led to administrative roles as department chair and graduate program director. In 2005 she became UAA’s fifth executive director. In 2013, she was inducted into the UAA Service Honor Roll.
Read the UAA award press release

(2010) Mary Helen Callahan

Distinguished Service Award Winner 2010, Mary Callahan

Mary Helen Callahan was the Executive Director of UAA from 1980 until 2000. In 2010, Ms. Callahan became the first recipient of the award during the 40th Annual Meeting of the UAA held in Honolulu. As the first recipient, Ms. Callahan personified the purpose of the award. As administrative assistant (from 1975-1980) to the board chair of what was then the Council of University Institutes for Urban Affairs (later renamed the Urban Affairs Association), she played a central role in establishing the early operational infrastructure and board support that launched a new national professional organization. She was instrumental in building the core activities of the organization from its annual conference to the now well-respected Journal of Urban Affairs. As the guiding hand in UAA’s development for more than two decades, Ms. Callahan epitomizes the commitment and service to the field of urban affairs that this award seeks to honor.