Andrew Hahn, PhD’78 | 2020 Recipient of the Florence G. Heller Alumni Award

Hahn (left) at the wedding of longtime colleague, CYC Director and Associate Professor Susan Curnan (center)

Professor Emeritus Andrew Hahn is one of 15 alumni to receive a 2020 Florence G. Heller Alumni Award. Hahn served as founding director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and was a cofounder of the Center for Youth and Communities. Both centers have gone on to conduct decades of impactful research on youth development and youth employment, two areas he cared about deeply.

Nominations for Hahn referred to him as a “beloved” professor “with a heart of gold” who taught several generations of Heller students. Nominators also remarked on his instrumental role in raising the profile of the Heller School in the world of programs and policies. Hahn retired from the Heller School in 2014 after 32 years of dedicated service on the faculty as a teacher, researcher and center leader.

His career maxim: “Enough Is Known For Action”

Much of Andrew’s scholarship, teaching and advocacy has focused on improving quality of life for underserved youth – including those who are low income, educationally disadvantaged, or otherwise facing significant barriers to success.  His career began with a focus on youth employment, but broadened over the years to encompass youth development policies and strategies more generally, ranging from programs for young high school dropouts in the U.S. to entrepreneurship programs, to international efforts to build transferable life skills for adolescents. 

He approaches these issues with a wide-angle lens that encompasses not only traditional government policies, but also the roles of colleges and universities in fighting poverty and ways that local and family foundations could be made more effective as partners in addressing critical social concerns.  One key to his approach was the idea of translating research into action – impacting policies, programs, systems.  He likes to say that he is a professional in a field aimed at helping people in vulnerable situations.  The title of one of his early publications included the phrase: “Enough is Known for Action.” That has served as a hallmark for all of his efforts – taking what we know and applying it in ways that improve the lives of young and adults.  

Hahn’s path to the Heller School

Andy was finishing up his master’s degree in education at Harvard when he met Nathan Glazer, a nationally recognized sociologist at Harvard, who pointed him towards the Heller School as a place that emphasizes putting social policy into action.  As Andy tells the story, Glazer said, “You look like a Heller School type.” 

From the first, Andy felt welcomed and “at home” at Heller.  As a new graduate student, he worked on several projects with Arnold Gurin, then the Heller School dean.  They would drive to meetings together and Andy felt that the dean took him under his wing.  He felt connected and learned a lot.  Similarly, other faculty and students were so welcoming – he felt good about being part of the Heller community from day one. 

Proudest Career Accomplishments

Andy is proud of his role as a teacher and mentor for students at Heller over many, many years.  He was particularly pleased to be awarded the Heller School’s Mentoring Award in 2007, reflecting his commitment to helping students make the most of their time at Heller.   There are many alumni who point to Andy as a key part of their time at Heller.

Andy also played a founding role in two of the Heller School’s research institutes: the Center for Youth and Communities and the Sillerman Center for the Study of Philanthropy 

Finally, Andy has impacted national youth employment and education policy over multiple decades through his research and writing, his work with leadership at the U.S. Department of Labor and multiple national organizations, and through the work of his students, who have gone on to influential policy careers of their own.    

About the 2020 Florence G. Heller Alumni Awards

To honor our 60th anniversary, the community chose to honor 15 awardees for living a life that exemplifies the mission and vision of the Heller School and honors the legacy of our namesake, Florence G. Heller. Award recipients have produced positive and impactful change through the rigor, creativity, and innovation of their work. Additional selection criteria included the national, global, local impact of accomplishments, identification with the Brandeis community, and/or sustained impact and leadership over time.

You will learn more about each awardee over the coming year as we share interviews with each of them on the Heller website.