AGB Announces Six Higher Education Governing Boards Selected to Receive 2021 John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership

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Six governing boards from across the country were selected by a group of their peers to receive an award highlighting exceptional leadership and initiative

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), the premier organization representing higher education governing boards, in partnership with TIAA, a Fortune 100 financial services organization dedicated to helping its clients pursue financial well-being, today announced that they have selected six boards to receive the 2021 John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership. Established in 1992, the Nason Award is presented to higher education governing boards that demonstrate exceptional leadership and initiative. In addition to confronting the significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recipients of this year’s award addressed pressing issues related to board culture, presidential transitions, community advocacy, and other important matters.

This year’s honorees were chosen from among more than 35 nominations illustrating the essential work of boards from public and private institutions, statewide systems, and institutionally related foundations. This year’s Nason Award recipients are:

  • American University of Beirut (AUB) Board of Trustees—In exemplary fashion, the AUB board has juggled competing and consequential priorities, meeting across time zones as much as 10 hours apart to quickly respond to a series of serious challenges. Against the backdrop of a devastating pandemic, a severe country-wide economic downturn and currency devaluation, and the summer’s unprecedented port explosion, the board marshalled the university in providing immediate and ongoing support for its students and the surrounding community while positioning the institution to remain a source of strength and leadership in the region.
  • Colorado State University (CSU) Foundation Board of Directors—Unsatisfied with “good enough,” the CSU Foundation board has undergone a significant transformation to add a greater diversity of voices and establish a new governance framework just in time to help the university surmount pandemic-triggered cuts in state funding and decreases in tuition and fees. When COVID-19 struck, the foundation board’s efforts and commitment to strategic governance resulted in the second-largest transfer of funds in foundation history, benefiting students with financial hardships and institutional priorities requiring immediate attention and resources.
  • Diné College Board of Regents (AZ)—The Diné College Board of Regents has worked to overhaul and refine the institution’s strategic direction over the course of a few years—leading plans to create a new mission, enhance the board’s collaboration with faculty and staff, and help establish the college’s new institutionally related foundation. These actions have manifested significant gains in areas such as graduation rates as well as an increased level of support for the entire Navajo Nation.
  • Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (FranU) Board of Trustees (LA)—The FranU Board of Trustees has made a tremendous leap, evolving from a board that viewed itself as an advisory entity into a capable and robust governing body. FranU’s board overcame meaningful challenges related to board culture and muddied expectations to become not only a leader of the institution but a model for nonprofit organizations around the region, relying on an intense commitment to continual development and ongoing improvement.
  • University of Tennessee Board of Trustees—After state legislation made significant changes to the structure and makeup of the University of Tennessee board, its members have taken pains to build the board from the ground up. This process was characterized by a commitment to inclusive engagement with students, faculty, and staff across its campuses. The Board enlisted feedback from alumni, former board members, key members of the state legislature, and members of the public, and used these same practices to head a presidential search process reflective of its transparency and candor, leading to a smooth and successful presidential transition.
  • University of Vermont (UVM) Foundation Board of Directors—The ongoing success of the UVM Foundation is due in no small part to its Board of Directors, especially given that the foundation is only nine years old, and its inception coincided with the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the university. The foundation board’s deep commitment to best practices, institution-foundation alignment, and effective advocacy have produced profound results for UVM, including unprecedented amounts raised and greater levels of support from friends, alumni, and donors. Furthermore, under the board’s leadership, the UVM Foundation has been consistently named one of the “Best Places to Work” in Vermont.

The Nason Award selection committee also wishes to note that the Florida Memorial University Board of Trustees, Frontier Nursing University Board of Directors, and Kent State University Board of Trustees deserve special recognition for their commitment to supporting their communities during challenging times.

“The coronavirus is but one of many challenges that higher education is facing. We hope that recognizing boards that are strategic partners of their institutions will give others the courage to lead their institutions or foundations in a similar fashion,” said Henry Stoever, AGB president and CEO. “I am excited to share the great work and success that these honorees have achieved when we hold our upcoming events.”

Recipients will receive their awards throughout 2021 and will be honored at AGB’s Foundation Leadership Forum (Jan. 25–27) and National Conference on Trusteeship (April 12–14). This year’s selection committee included:

  • Joe Burke, president emeritus, Keuka College; AGB senior fellow
  • Gretchen Buhlig, CEO, Arizona State University Foundation
  • Marla Capozzi, chair, Babson College Board of Trustees
  • Jim Geringer, former Wyoming governor; former chair, Western Governors University Board of Trustees
  • Eleanor Horne, member, The College of New Jersey Board of Trustees; member, AGB Board of Directors
  • Vita Pickrum, president, Delaware State University Foundation
  • Brian Steeves, executive director of the Board of Regents and corporate secretary, University of Minnesota System

The Nason award is named for higher education leader John W. Nason, who served as the chair of the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council and helped more than 4,000 interned students continue their college studies across the nation during World War II. AGB would like to thank TIAA for its support of the Nason Award. Learn more about AGB’s Nason Award at AGB.org/Award.

About AGB
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership.

About TIAA
TIAA was founded nearly a century ago as the vision of one of history’s great philanthropists, Andrew Carnegie, to make a difference in the lives of teachers. Since then, TIAA has helped millions at academic, medical, research, and cultural organizations—the people whose work makes the world a better place—retire with financial security.

Today, TIAA is a global asset manager with $1.2 trillion in assets under management. TIAA’s investment model and long-term approach aim to benefit the five million people and more than 15,000 institutions it serves.

As TIAA pursues powerful performance that can help drive better outcomes for its clients, we are committed to growing, innovating, and continually improving and building on our proud history of diversity and inclusion. For more information, please visit TIAA.org.

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Morgan Alexander