Remembrance of Katherine Wallman


Katherine Wallman, the former chief statistician of the United States, passed away on January 17, 2024. She was a prominent figure in the data user community, such as serving as a member of the APDU board of directors. The following comments are from Amy O’Hara, President, and Beth Jarosz, Vice President, reflecting on Katherine Wallman’s contributions. At the end are a small sampling of Katherine’s amazing accomplishments.
Amy O’Hara, President of APDU
Katherine Wallman was incredibly smart, effective, and fun. Few high-ranking government officials tick all three of those boxes, but she did with ease. APDU was fortunate to have her serve on our board from 2018-2022. It was fun to gauge her reactions in our zoom meetings: was the raised eyebrow surprise, disbelief, or amusement?  You didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Katherine knew how to be precise without being persnickety, how to be prickly without being pushy. Unless a push was warranted.
I got to know Katherine better during the last few years. She was an excellent sounding board.  Whether we were chatting about opportunities or crises, Katherine was action oriented. She’d riff on possible options: What should we do next? Who will we work with?  She was dependably forward looking. Even if I was whiny or worried, there was no handwringing or side-stepping problems when brainstorming with her. Plus, she was entertaining. She told hysterical stories of her early, middle, and late career antics. It was great fun to laugh with her. 
I will miss her counsel and friendship. We have lost a legend.
Beth Jarosz, Vice President of APDU
There is so much to say about Katherine’s incredible influence. For decadesas Chief Statistician, as Executive Director of Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, as a board member at APDU, and as a sounding board for her friends and colleaguesshe was at the forefront of crafting and leading policies that improved data quality and increased confidentiality protections. Her work, quite literally, touched everyone in the United States (whether they know it or not).
In addition to her public accomplishments, many of which are listed below, Katherine was also an open, honest, and generous personshe shared her time and her insights freely. She was quick with advice when you needed it, and also quick to share a laugh. And her attention to detail was legendary—much to the benefit of everyone around her. She noticed everything, and always shared what she noticed in a way that made the listener feel valued and respected.
A sampling of Katherine’s accomplishments include:
  • Career
    • Chief statistician and head of the OMB Statistical and Science Policy Office
    • Executive Director of Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics
  • Service
    • Board of the Association of Public Data Users (2018-22)
    • CNSTAT panel that produced A Vision and Roadmap for Education Statistics (2022)
    • American Statistical Association Task Force on 2020 Census Quality Indicators (2021­)
    • Vice chair of the Statistics Committee, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2009–2011)
    • Chair of the Conference of European Statisticians, UN Economic Commission for Europe (2003–2007)
    • Chair of the UN Statistical Commission (2004–2005)
    • American Statistical Association president (1992)
    • First executive director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (1982-1992)
    • Population Association of America Committee on Population Statistics
    • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • American Statistical Association fellow (1983)
  • Awards
    • Julius Shiskin Award (2017)
    • Population Association of America’s Excellence in Public Service Award (2011)
    • Presidential Meritorious Executive (x2)
    • American Statistical Association Founders Award (2007)