NACAC History

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Serving the college admissions field since 1937.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has guided the evolution of college admission counseling into a recognized profession since its founding 80 years ago. Beginning in 1937 as a small gathering of representatives of Midwestern colleges and universities, NACAC membership today represents the diverse range of professionals in secondary and postsecondary institutions who work with students transitioning to and between colleges, as well as other professionals who support NACAC’s mission and purpose.

More than 26,000 individuals, institutions, and organizations are now NACAC members. In addition, 23 affiliate organizations—state, regional, and international—serve admission counseling professionals throughout the United States and the world. Over our history, the association has defined and promoted the highest ethical practices and professional standards, and, today, is the premiere organization for professional admission counseling training and networking.

Throughout NACAC’s history, the association has worked toward increasing diversity and social justice through our efforts to provide a path to success through educational opportunities. Similarly, our legislative advocacy has had an impact on educational policy at both the national and state levels.

Many professional definitions and benchmarks were established by NACAC’s founders in the early years: distinctions between scholarships and financial aid were defined; a member code of ethics was adopted; the issue of equity in college admission was raised; it was first suggested that application fees be charged; parameters for College Days and high school visitations were set; and a national presence was deemed essential through regional accrediting agencies and the media.

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Throughout the 1940s the association continued to grow, despite the challenges WWII posed to colleges and the nation. A first constitution for The Association of College Admission Counselors (ACAC) was adopted in March 1942. Much effort was devoted to the development of a “guidance handbook” containing accurate information on member colleges. This became an annual publication and was distributed to high schools throughout the Midwest. In the summer of 1944 members convened for a two-day “camp college” that, by 1947, grew into the first full association conference. Eight representative state secretaries were first approved in 1947.

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ACAC membership numbered 144 colleges in 1950. In October 1952 the constitution was revised to grant “associate” (nonvoting) member status to individuals from high schools. Full voting, institutional membership was extended to high schools in October 1955 (dues $6). At this time the Executive Board was expanded to include three members from the secondary sector. Annual conferences grew and developed programs to address concerns of a wider representation of members. An ACAC College Admission Center was established in 1958; a clearinghouse for colleges to review applications of college-bound students. Esther DeMerritt of Coe College was elected the first woman ACAC president in 1959. The College Handbook was a major revenue source for the association.

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The first national office opened in 1960 in Evanston, Illinois. Membership grew dramatically, especially among secondary schools. The ACAC Center for College Admissions, an admission clearinghouse, was the major source of the association’s revenue throughout the decade. At the 1963 Annual Conference in Philadelphia, a resolution addressing the needs of disadvantaged students passed. In 1966 members voted sweeping governance changes, and the first NACAC Assembly convened in 1967. The Association became the National Association for College Admissions Counselors in 1968. The 1969 Silver Anniversary Conference was turbulent, as vocal demands were made for affirmative action in admission and financial aid. A pivotal outcome was the NACAC Human Relations Committee.

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Dwindling income for the College Admission Center had caused a financial crisis for the association in the late 1960s. 1972 saw the advent of the first NACAC College Fairs, an innovation that became pivotal to NACAC’s financial solvency. But deliberations regarding a move from the Midwest to Washington, DC, to assume an advocacy role of national prominence, became the pivotal issue of the 1970s. The August 1977 Newsletter included 16 pages of pros and cons regarding a move to DC. A survey of 1,780 members saw an almost equally divided membership (454 to 414) favoring the move. Debate continued throughout the decade.

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By the beginning of the 1980s NACAC had established a DC satellite office and was active in federal advocacy. The Annual Leadership (later Legislative) Conference in Washington saw leaders testifying on Capitol Hill. In 1984 voting membership was granted to independent counselors. Growing concern over college athletics led to NACAC’s publication of the High School Planning Guide for College-Bound Athletes in 1984. In 1985, CollegeLine was launched, a national service providing in-depth information to students on member colleges. The 1985 Assembly made a final decision that NACAC would relocate and, in 1987, NACAC made the move to the nation’s capital, opening an office in Alexandria, Virginia.

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NACAC conference sessions and Assembly deliberations during the 1990s were largely centered on debate over member institutional prerogatives versus students’ needs. The SPGP was amended to reflect compromises on standards regarding need-blind admission and merit vs. need-based aid, but May 1 was affirmed as the uniform reply date. In 1991 Regina Manley became the first African-American elected to serve as NACAC president. In June of 1992, NACAC purchased and dedicated its own building in Alexandria, Virginia. A 1995 name change to the National Association for College Admission Counseling reflected the growing diversity of roles of association members. The NACAC Listserv created instant member interaction in 1996.

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The millennium saw steady progress and growth. With a 2016 membership of more than 15,000, the association has been resilient in meeting the needs of admission professionals and students—even in the face of national sorrow, horrendous natural disasters, war overseas, and extraordinary economic challenges.The first State of College Admission report appeared in 2003. The SPGP was substantively revised in 2005 to reflect changes in the admission world, while maintaining an unchanged commitment to this long-standing code of ethics. The association refocused its board structure. With a sound financial footing, a new headquarters building was purchased in 2007, anticipating continuing association growth. NACAC has embraced new technology in professional training, communications, and member engagement. NACAC remains visible as an advocate for members and students on Capitol Hill, with the US Department of Education, in meetings with US presidential administrations, with association colleagues, and locally.

And, as the world of education grows more international in nature, NACAC has incorporated the challenges of a global focus through new attention to international recruitment by hosting its first international “national conference” in Toronto in 2013, focusing attention on ethics in international recruitment, hiring the first director of international initiatives, and appointing an International Initiatives Committee. Similarly, NACAC expanded its National College Fair program in 2016 to include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) college fairs to reach broader student audiences.

Internally, an effort was launched in fall 2016 to review the SPGP and the association’s membership categories, which could lead to procedural and operational changes.

While NACAC’s core mission of guiding students through the college admission process remains constant, the profession, like the issues facing students and families, grows more complex. NACAC is as committed today to addressing professional concerns as it was at our founding 80 years ago.

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Ffiona Rees
University of California – Los Angeles (CA)

Todd Rinehart
University of Denver (CO)

Jayne Caflin Fonash
JCFonash Consulting (VA)

Stefanie Niles
Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)

David Burge
George Mason University (VA)

Nancy Beane
The Westminster Schools (GA)

Phil Trout
Minnetonka High School (MN)

Jeff Fuller
University of Houston (TX)

Katy Murphy
Bellarmine College Preparatory (CA)​​​​

Jim Rawlins
Colorado State University (CO)

Evelyn Boyd White
Thomas Dale High School (VA)​​

Jim L. Miller
​​University of Wisconsin-Superior (WI)

James Jump
St. Christopher’s School (VA)

William McClintick
Mercersburg Academy (PA)

Kimberly Johnston
University of Maine (ME)​

Mary Lee Hoganson
Retired Member (IL)

Beverly Henry Wheeler
University of Tulsa (OK)

Frank Sachs
The Blake School (MN)

Keith M. White
University of Wisconsin (WI)

Carl Behrend
Orchard Park High School (NY)
Paul Pedersen
University of Texas at Austin (TX)

Marybeth Kravets
Deerfield High School (IL)

Gary M. Kelsey
Binghamton University (NY)

Marcia Hunt
Pine Crest School (FL)

Patrick J. O’Connor
Oakland Community College (MI)

Audrey T. Hill
Watkins Mill High School (MD)

Ron R. Koger
University of Alabama in Huntsville (AL)

Steven R. Steinhilber
Bay High School (OH)

Margaret Williamson
Presbyterian College (SC)

Cleve Latham
The McCallie School (TN)

Daniel J. Saracino
Santa Clara University (CA)

Regina E. Manley
Highland Park High School (IL)

Matthew G. Flanigan
Marian College of Fond du Lac (WI)

Russell J. Ryan
King & Low-Heywood Thomas Schools (CT)

R. Russell Shunk
Dickinson College (PA)

Gary L. Williams
Hawken School (OH)

Alberta E. Meyer
Trinity University (TX)

Pamela K. Fay-Williams
St. Catherine’s School (VA)

Roger H. Campbell
Northwestern University (IL)

Lois C. Mazzuca
Glenbrook North High School (IL)

John W. Vlandis
The University of Connecticut (CT)

Ann P. Fritts
The Lovett School (GA)

Delwin K. Gustafson
Gettysburg College (PA)

James A. Alexander, Jr.
Highland Park High School (IL)

Jeanette B. Hersey
Connecticut College (CT)

Evelyn M. Yeagle
East Grand Rapids High School (MI)

Russell Gossage
Trinity University (TX)

Joseph A. Monte
Albert Einstein High School (MD)

Donald G. Dickason
Cornell University (NY)

Edward F. Babbott
Summit High School (NJ)

Charles E. Malone
University of Tulsa (OK)

Robert L. Kirkpatrick, Jr.
Wesleyan University (CT)

Margaret E. Perry
University of Chicago (IL)

Russell R. Judd
Glen Rock High School (NJ)
Colorado State University (CO)

Brother F. Christopher
La Salle University (PA)

Louise T. Paine
Glenbrook High School (IL)

Ted S. Cooper
George Washington High School (CO)

Bruce Westerdahl
MacMurray College (IL)

Gayle Wilson
University of Michigan (MI)

1963 and 1964
Cliff Wing, Jr.
Tulane University (LA)

Emery R. Walker, Jr.
Claremont Men’s College and
Harvey Mudd College (CA)

Eugene Wilson
Amherst College (MA)

Charles Gavin
Carleton College (MN)

Esther DeMerritt
Coe College (IA)

Harry M. Gerlach
Miami University (OH)

Hollace G. Roberts
Western Reserve University (OH)

Harland White
Purdue University (IN)

Orville Nothdurft
Bradley University (IL)

John Hafer
Syracuse University (NY)

Paul Napier
Muskingum College (OH)

Clum Bucher
Indiana University (IN)

C. William Reiley
Northwestern University (IL)

J. Scott Hemry
Stephens College (MO)

1948 and 1949
William E. Scott
University of Chicago (IL)

Willard Umbreit
DePauw University (IN)

John B. Laing
Beloit College (WI)

1944 and 1945
Arnold Serenius
Augustana College (IL)

1942 and 1943
James M. Macaulay
Cornell College (NY)

James B. Gage
Beloit College (WI)

Machin Gardner
Stephens College (MO)

Thomas Carpenter
Knox College (IL)

Edward W. Hale
Beloit College (WI)

Milton C. Towner
Lawrence College (WI)

Joseph Jefferson

Ted S. Cooper

Robert P. Hanrahan

Charles A. Marshall

Helen J. Pape (Acting)

Frank Burtnett

Joyce E. Smith (Acting)

Kevin D. Keeley

Joyce E. Smith

Angel B. Pérez

*Position title changed to Chief Executive Officer in 2007