Excellence in Education Award

Established in 1983, the Excellence in Education Award is presented to an individual - member or non-member - who has improved the field of education and/or the way students are served.

Below are several (but not all) of the criteria that the Governance and Nominating Committee uses when nominating an award recipient for the Excellence in Education Award.

  • Prominence: national figure in political or education arena; great influence over public opinion in matters related to education
  • Advocacy and Access: in their career, has been at the forefront of initiatives advocating for students and access to education

About the 2017 Winners:

As executive director of College Horizons, Carmen Lopez helps make higher education more accessible for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students. Her program provides services and workshops to Native high school students, primarily during the summer, as a way to address the college access gap. She also helps connect Native students with admission professionals from colleges and universities around the country. Lopez, a member of the Navajo Nation, assumed the directorship of College Horizons after years as executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program. The initiative plays an instrumental role in the recruitment and support of Native students.

Established in 1983, Excellence in Education Awards are presented to individuals who have improved the field of education and/or the way students are served.William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, has helped shape over 40 classes of entering students at the university. Himself a first-generation Harvard graduate, Fitzsimmons is credited with greatly increasing his university’s percentage of Pell Grant-eligible students. He has been a friend and mentor to generations of NACAC members. In his role as director of Harvard’s Summer Institute on College Admissions, Fitzsimmons invites current admission leaders to present on relevant topics to over 200 professionals each year. He also chaired NACAC’s Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admissions from 2007 to 2008. The commission’s landmark report is regarded as a valuable resource within the college admission profession, and their recommendations are still relevant today.

Previous Award Winners:

  • 2017 - William R. Fitzsimmons and Carmen Lopez
  • 2016- Stacy Lightfoot
  • 2015 -  Dr. Trish Hatch, Dr. Sandy Savitz-Romer, Campus Pride and Shane Windmeyer
  • 2014 - First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama
  • 2013 - Nicole Farmer Hurd and Ted O'Neill
  • 2012 - Greg Darnieder  
  • 2011 - Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • 2010 - Steve Peifer
  • 2009 - Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • 2008 - Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)  
  • 2007 - Loren Pope
  • 2006 - Hugh O'Brian
  • 2005 - Irving Fradkin
  • 2004 - Rep. David Obey (D-WI)
  • 2002 - Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Rep. Betty McCullum (D-MN)
  • 2001 - Lee C. Bollinger
  • 2000 - Richard Riley
  • 1999 - William G. Bowen and Derek Bok
  • 1998 - Tom Joyner
  • 1997 - Dr. Benjamin Carson   
  • 1996 - Peggy Cooper Cafritz     
  • 1995 - David L. Boren
  • 1994 - Eugene Lang
  • 1993 - Arnold Mitchem    
  • 1992 - Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-WI) and Sen. Thomas Sawyer (D-OH)
  • 1991 - Theodore Sizer  
  • 1990 - Augustus F. Hawkins
  • 1989 - Harold L. Hodgkinson  
  • 1988 - Oluf Davidsen and George Hanford  
  • 1987 - Ernest L. Boyer
  • 1986 - William D. Ford, Samuel L. Meyers and Paul Simon  
  • 1985 - Alexander W. Astin    
  • 1984 - Fred Hargadon  
  • 1983 - Francis Keppel


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