History of the Lynton Award

Dr. Ernest A. Lynton
framed faculty scholarly activity as inclusive, collaborative, and problem-oriented work in which academics share knowledge-generating tasks with the public and involve community partners as participants in public problem solving. The core value of reciprocity involves “true partnership, based on both sides bringing their own experience and expertise to the project.” Reciprocity values rationality that is relational, localized, and contextual, and favors mutual deference between laypersons and academics. Knowledge generation is a process of co-creation, breaking down the distinctions between knowledge producers and knowledge consumers. It further implies scholarly work that is conducted with shared authority and power with those in the community at all stages of the research process – from defining the research problem, choosing theoretical and methodological approaches, conducting the research, developing the final products, and participating in peer evaluation. Reciprocity operates to facilitate the involvement of individuals in the community not just as consumers of knowledge and services but as participants in the larger public culture of democracy. What Lynton identified as a “kind of collaboration [that] requires a substantial change in the prevalent culture of academic institutions” such that they would be “highly interactive with their surroundings,” maintaining “a close relationship with their communities.”

In 1996 NERCHE created the Ernest A. Lynton Award for Faculty Professional Service and Academic Outreach to recognize faculty members who connect their expertise and scholarship to community outreach. Award recipients demonstrated excellence in each of the four criteria for the award:

  • sustained effort in community outreach and professional service;
  • use of innovative and imaginative approaches;
  • institutional impact through teaching, program development and student/faculty participation; and
  • external success through scholarly output, community impact and student learning.

Since 1996, NERCHE has received nearly 1,000 nominations of exemplary faculty members whose work has had a significant impact on scholarship, teaching, and societal problems. Award recipients represent disciplines as varied as sociology, philosophy, medicine, library science, anthropology, chemistry, English, engineering, education, and American Studies. They teach at universities, both public and private; liberal arts colleges; and community colleges. They have inspired students to consider using their education to make a socially meaningful imprint on an increasingly complex world. They are role models, not only for students, but also for their colleagues and their institutions seeking to find ways to connect the rich resources of the academy with the local and global community.

The Lynton Award pays tribute to the memory of Ernest Lynton, who raised the profile and status of faculty professional service both nationally and internationally. Lynton championed a vision of service that embraced collective responsibility and an understanding of colleges and universities as catalyst not only in the discovery of new knowledge but also in its application throughout society.

In 1984 Lynton wrote: “viewing professional service as an institutional priority is important because only when it is recognized as a priority will professional service as an individual faculty activity be given serious attention and the proper incentives it requires and deserves.” When NERCHE first presented this award, many nominees carried out their professional service with few if any institutional supports or rewards. Over the years, we received more and more nomination letters from provosts and presidents indicating a sea change in the level of regard for and the institutional commitment to this kind of engaged scholarly work.

In 2007, the Lynton Award was renamed the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement. The change in language represents a shift from a more unilateral, expert-driven approach to outreach that prevailed in the 80s and early 90s to one that O’Meara and Rice describe as “going beyond the expert model that often gets in the way of constructive university-community collaboration, …calls on faculty to move beyond ‘outreach,’…asks scholars to go beyond ‘service,’ with its overtones of noblesse oblige. What it emphasizes is genuine collaboration: that the learning and teaching be multidirectional and the expertise shared. It represents a basic re-conceptualization of faculty involvement in community-based work” (Faculty Priorities Reconsidered, 2005).

In 2009, the Lynton Award was designated as an award for early career faculty (pre-tenure at tenure-granting campuses and early career – within the first six years – at campuses with long-term contracts).

NERCHE and CUMU are partnering to manage the Lynton Award. NERCHE will continue to be the Lynton Award home, and will also be primarily responsible for the selection of the annual award recipient and finalists. The award will be presented each year at CUMU’s annual conference.
For more information about the Ernest A. Lynton Award, please contact NERCHE at (617) 287-7740 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .