Academic Leadership Award Recognizes Seven University Presidents

$500,000 awarded to each winner to inspire initiatives that benefit students, institutions, and communities.

2017 Academic Leadership Award Winners

Carnegie Corporation of New York today named seven exceptional American college and university presidents as recipients of its Academic Leadership Award. The honor consists of $500,000 in support for each winner’s academic initiatives.

The award recognizes educators who, in addition to fulfilling their administrative and managerial roles with dedication and creativity, demonstrate vision and an outstanding commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, the liberal arts, equal opportunity, the development of major interdisciplinary programs, international engagement, and the promotion of strong ties between their institutions and their local communities. The 2017 honorees are:

Established in 2005, the award reflects the conviction of Andrew Carnegie, the Corporation’s philanthropic founder, that education and knowledge are fundamental tools for strengthening democracy and creating a more vibrant civil society.

“There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, which play a fundamental role in educating the next generation of our workforce, leaders, and citizens. Our higher education institutions are central to the future of our nation,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “Andrew Carnegie believed in the importance of strong, dedicated, and effective higher education leaders. As custodians of Mr. Carnegie’s legacy, it is our honor to salute a new class of exemplary leaders, who join with another 20 past award recipients in representing some of the best of the American academy.”

The Corporation will provide funding to each awardee’s institution to support special programs developed by the recipient. Some of the exemplary accomplishments of the 2017 honorees include:

2017 Academic Leadership Award Honorees

1Joseph E. Aoun

Joseph E. Aoun President Aoun began his tenure at Northeastern University in 2006. Since then, he has transformed the institution by adding more than 140 undergraduate and graduate areas of study, recruiting more than 600 tenured and tenure-track faculty, and increasing research grants by nearly 300 percent. Aoun is best known for his initiatives that provide students with real-world experiential learning opportunities. They include a global co-op program, interdisciplinary research, and study abroad and service programs, with a network of 3,300 corporate and NGO partners in 136 countries and seven continents.

2Mark P. Becker

Mark P. Becker President Becker is a first-generation college graduate and since 2009, he has been leading Georgia State University through a 10-year strategic plan that has resulted in the institution’s emergence as a leader in student equity, especially for African-American students. Through targeted, data-driven support systems, Georgia State has eliminated disparities in graduation rates based on race, ethnicity, income level, and first-generation status. In addition, the percentage of minority students graduating in STEM fields over the past five years has increased 69 percent for Black students and 226 percent for Hispanic students.

3John J. DeGioia

John J. DeGioia As the head of Georgetown University since 2001, President DeGioia has been dedicated to advancing the institution’s tradition of academic excellence, its commitment to its Catholic and Jesuit identity, its engagement with the Washington, D.C. community, and its global mission. Under his leadership, the university is currently engaged in a process of understanding its historical role in the institution of slavery, and it is working to establish research centers for racial injustice and for slavery and its legacies in our nation. In addition, DeGioia recently completed a $1.5 billion capital campaign for the university. Among other board memberships, DeGioia serves as a member of the board of trustees for Carnegie Corporation of New York.

4Nariman Farvardin

Nariman Farvardin Farvardin became president of Stevens Institute of Technology in 2011 and launched a 10-year strategic plan to create a top research university. Building on core strengths in technology and entrepreneurship, Farvardin invested in more faculty members, support services for students, new academic and research facilities, and classroom technology. He emphasized experiential learning opportunities as a way for students to connect their education to work in their chosen fields; facilitated a 365 percent increase in students participating in international programs; and oversaw increased applications and improved retention and graduation rates. Stevens has a historical association with Andrew Carnegie, who was a Stevens trustee and donated $65,000 in 1899 to build the Carnegie Laboratory of Engineering and later provided nearly $800,000 in endowment support, equal to more than $20 million today.

5Maria Klawe

Maria Klawe Klawe assumed the presidency of Harvey Mudd College in 2006. She is a renowned mathematician and computer scientist, and today she is known as a leading advocate for closing the gender gap among women interested in science and engineering. Under her leadership, Harvey Mudd College has increased the number of female students, particularly computer science majors; recruited more female faculty; and promoted more female department chairs. In addition, Klawe has helped increase ethnic diversity: for the last three years, the incoming student class has been 20 percent Hispanic, up from 5 percent five years ago; and 4 percent Black, up from 2 percent during the same period. Nearly three-quarters of all students receive financial aid.

6DeRionne Pollard

DeRionne Pollard Since 2010, President Pollard has led Montgomery College, a highly diverse community college complex with 56,000 students. She supported the development of an ambitious strategic plan, which focused on student retention and completion. As result, the three-year combined graduation and transfer rate has increased by six percentage points in the past year alone. Pollard started a coaching program to provide disadvantaged high school students with a pathway to obtaining a college degree. Grant-funded research has tripled to $11 million over four years, and workforce development partnerships have resulted in federal grants of $25 million over three years, helping to establish the college as a hub for adult learners and a gateway for careers in the region’s biotechnology sector.

7Barbara R. Snyder

Barbara R. Snyder During her ten years as president of Case Western Reserve University, Barbara Snyder has been credited with transformative change that has led to a three-fold increase in undergraduate applications and a $1.5 billion capital campaign. The funding allowed for a major increase in endowed professorships, greater student support services, and new campus buildings. She also forged multiple community partnerships, including with Cleveland Clinic for a 485,000 square foot Health Education Campus, the Cleveland Museum of Art for an art history institute, and Cuyahoga Community College for programs that assist students in obtaining bachelor’s degrees in the humanities and STEM fields.

Past recipients of the Academic Leadership Award:

  • Henry S. Bienen, Northwestern University
  • Robert J. Birgeneau, University of California, Berkeley
  • Leon Botstein, Bard College
  • Richard H. Brodhead, Duke University
  • Nancy Cantor, Syracuse University
  • Jared L. Cohon, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Scott S. Cowen, Tulane University
  • Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University
  • Ronald J. Daniels, Johns Hopkins University
  • Matthew Goldstein, City University of New York
  • Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania
  • John L. Hennessy, Stanford University
  • Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • William E. Kirwan, University System of Maryland
  • Patricia A. McGuire, Trinity Washington University
  • Diana Natalicio, University of Texas at El Paso
  • C.L. Max Nikias, University of Southern California
  • Eduardo J. Padrón, Miami Dade College
  • Don M. Randel, The University of Chicago
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman College


About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on the issues that Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.