Morrow-Howell named director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Productive aging expert also will serve as McDonnell International Scholars Academy ambassador to the University of Hong Kong

Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, is the new director of WUSTL’s Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, effective Jan. 1, 2012, announced Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

Morrow-Howell succeeds John C. Morris, MD, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology and director of WUSTL’s Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Knight ADRC), the Memory and Aging Project and the Memory Diagnostic Center.


“Professor Nancy Morrow-Howell is an outstanding choice for this important leadership position,” Wrighton says.

“She is a leading national scholar in gerontology, and will benefit from the great work of Dr. John Morris, the center’s founding director,” Wrighton says. “Developing a better understanding of how best to provide an excellent quality of life for the aging population, not just in the United States, but throughout the world, is an important issue for all of us.”

Morris will continue to serve the center as chair of its executive committee.

“Establishing a university-wide center that focuses on the critical societal impact of our rapidly aging population has enabled many productive, interdisciplinary collaborations with highly accomplished gerontological investigators, including Professor Morrow-Howell,” Morris says.

“As a leading research institution, Washington University has the capacity to make major contributions in the field of aging, and Professor Morrow-Howell is exceptionally well-positioned to extend the center’s scope to the international stage.

“My responsibilities in our Alzheimer’s disease studies have grown dramatically, so this is an ideal time to transition the directorship of the Center for Aging to her. Professor Morrow-Howell will also benefit enormously, as have I, from the remarkable support and friendship of the Friedman family.”

The Center for Aging, established in 1998, provides academic and administrative leadership to foster the development and implementation of activities that enhance productive aging.

This university-wide center, now part of the Institute for Public Health, promotes research, education, policy and service initiatives that enable older adults to remain healthy, active, empowered, contributing and independent for as long as possible.

Under Morris’ leadership, the Center for Aging fostered through pilot grant funding several junior investigators on both the Danforth and medical school campuses who leveraged their center awards into larger grants from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

The center also hosted the annual Friedman Lecture, bringing to WUSTL nationally recognized leaders in the field of aging.

At the Friedman Lecture, in association with the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, the center presents the annual Kopolow and Friedman awards for outstanding accomplishments in the care of older adults.

The center also forged a productive partnership with the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College and has attracted undergraduate students from throughout the United States to participate in its Summer Aging Research Program.

Another project brought together the Center for Aging and the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. The ongoing Naturally Occurring Retirement Community demonstration project seeks to help older adults continue to live in their own homes. This collaboration led directly to a successful application to the NIA for a research grant to study the effects of exercise and cognitive training in improving everyday function.

Moving forward, a top priority for Morrow-Howell is to convene an international meeting of experts on global aging issues.


Morrow-Howell is a national leader in gerontology, widely known for her work on productive and civic engagement of older adults.

In 1998, she organized the first national conference on productive engagement in later life and produced an important book to guide the development of a research agenda on the topic (Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges, published by Johns Hopkins University Press).

Since then, she and her colleagues at the Brown School’s Center for Social Development have advanced thinking and research on strategies to maximize participation and enhance outcomes of older adults in work, volunteering, educational and caregiving roles.

Her productive aging agenda has received international attention, and this last summer, she organized a second conference on productive engagement of older adults in China.

At the Brown School, Morrow-Howell teaches gerontology courses as well as research methods. She has held many leadership positions, including directing the master’s level gerontology curriculum and chairing the PhD program. She is an active mentor for doctoral students studying issues of an aging society.

Morrow-Howell is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), past chair of the Social Research, Policy, and Program section of the GSA, past-vice president of the Association for Gerontological Education in Social Work, and actively involved with the John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Initiative.

She received both the Washington University Distinguished Faculty Award and the Brown School’s Outstanding Faculty Award. She recently was awarded the Career Achievement Award from the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work.

“I am so excited to build on the foundation that Dr. Morris established and to lead the Center for Aging into its next phase,” Morrow-Howell says.

“All disciplines at Washington University have a role to play in educating students and advancing knowledge about older adults and aging society. I hope to energize faculty, staff and students and increase activity related to gerontology,” she says.

In addition to her new role as director of the Center for Aging, Morrow-Howell will serve as the ambassador to the University of Hong Kong for the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy brings together top scholars from many countries to pursue world-class education and research while forging a strong network with one another.

Once selected for this highly competitive program, each scholar is matched with a distinguished member of the Washington University faculty who serves as a mentor for the scholar and also as an “ambassador” to the university partner from which the scholar has graduated.

The ambassador assists the McDonnell Scholar in academic and professional life and travels annually with the scholar to the partner university to build relationships between the two institutions.

“Many societies around the world are growing older at an astonishing rate, and countries are facing similar challenges from population aging,” Morrow-Howell says.

“There is much to be learned from cross-cultural discussions and research projects on population aging. Through the McDonnell Academy, Washington University’s faculty and students can be an important part of knowledge development about aging societies around the globe.”