In Memoriam: Paul Posner


Paul L. Posner, Professor and Director of the Schar School’s Masters of Public Administration program at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, passed away on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at the age of 70.  He is survived by his wife Arlene, daughter Jenny, and two grandsons. 

Dr. Posner joined the faculty of George Mason University in 2005.  Formerly, he was the Managing Director for Strategic Issues at the US General Accounting Office (GAO) for 14 years.  At the GAO, where he worked for more than 30 years, he was responsible for work on the federal budget and intergovernmental fiscal policy and management.  As Dr. Posner once stated, “We enter our profession not because it is easy, but because it is hard. When the going gets tough, it is our business to rise to the challenge.”

From 2010-2011, Dr. Posner was the President of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).  Janice Lachance, the current president of ASPA, said upon learning of Dr. Posner’s passing, “Paul was one of the best people I have ever known and one of the best that public administration has to offer. He was a steadfast friend, an extraordinarily dedicated public servant and he will be missed.” 

In addition, Dr. Posner served as Chairman of the Board of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).  As noted within NAPA’s announcement, “During his two decades as an Academy Fellow, Paul demonstrated a strong and steadfast commitment to the Academy.  … With a focus on effectiveness, he persistently pushed the Academy toward excellence in all that it does.” 

His just-published book, Governing Under Stress (January 2017), provides the first definitive examination of the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus program.  Co-edited by fellow Schar School faculty Timothy Conlan and Priscilla Reagan, the book already has received excellent reviews.  This was his second experience with Dr. Conlan as a co-author.  The first, The Pathways to Power (2014), represented a capstone for years of work on national policymaking processes. His work on federalism includes his book, The Politics of Unfunded Mandates (1998), which won the Martha Derthick Award from the American Political Science Association’s federalism section - which also honored Dr. Posner with their Daniel J. Elazar Distinguished Scholar award (2017) for his contributions to the study of federalism and intergovernmental relations. He won the Best Practices Award (State and Federal Governance Issues) from the National Governors Association Center in 2016.

For Schar School friends and colleagues, Dr. Posner was more than an academic and a professional, he was cherished for his human qualities. "Paul has been a dear friend and supportive colleague. He has been steadfastly committed to his research, his teaching, and his public service, as well as a generous mentor to graduate students and junior faculty,” said Professor Regan, a close friend as well as a Schar School colleague. “We will all miss Paul's sense of humor, his good counsel, his leadership, and his warmth."

The Schar School has established a scholarship fund in Dr. Posner’s name that will be awarded to qualified MPA students. Dr. Posner’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the “Paul Posner MPA Student Fund.” To donate go to should be made payable to the “George Mason University Foundation,” with “Paul L. Posner MPA Scholarship Endowment” noted in the memo line.  Donations may be mailed to –

Zavin R. Smith, Office of Development & Alumni Relations
Schar School of Policy and Government/George Mason University
3351 Fairfax Drive, MS 3B1
Arlington, VA 22201.

Paul Posner MPA Student Fund

For further information, please contact Zavin R. Smith at