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President's Award

The President's Award is among the highest distinctions given to an individual or organization that has made extraordinary contributions to the community college movement on a regional or national basis, particularly in the areas of marketing and public relations.

Established in 2000, the award is presented by the board of directors at the national conference. It is not given every year.


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2017 President's Award

Dr. Martha J. Kanter
Executive Director
College Promise Campaign

As an advocate, innovator, strategist and leader, Dr. Martha Kanter has been a mighty contributor to the cause of opportunity on behalf of America’s community and technical colleges.

As executive director of the College Promise Campaign – a national, non-partisan initiative that seeks to build support for hard-working students who want to go to community college – she is leading the charge to increase access to college and the ability for students to complete a degree. Her leadership has helped individual college programs all across the nation flourish – programs that allow students to pursue the American dream through quality education, without incurring mountains of debt.

Dr. Kanter is also a senior fellow at New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy and specializes in efforts to identify evidence-based education interventions, financing models and behavioral incentives at the local, state and national levels to raise America’s high school and college graduation rates. Her academic interests include: the confluence of access, equity and excellence; the intersection of policy and politics in American higher education; and the contributions of America’s community colleges to the nation’s social fabric, civic future and economy.

Dr. Kanter’s voice has helped the (often unsung) value of two-year colleges be better heard. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Kanter to serve as the U.S. undersecretary of education, with oversight responsibility for all federal postsecondary statutory, regulatory and administrative policies and programs for the U.S. Department of Education, including the $175 billion annual federal student aid programs. From 2009 to 2013, Dr. Kanter and her team took bold steps to increase college access, affordability, quality and completion to implement President Obama’s goal to have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020. She oversaw the successful implementation of the Direct Student Loan program that resulted in a 50 percent increase in college enrollment, growing from 6 million to more than 9 million students today who are Pell Grant recipients.

From 2003 to 2009, Dr. Kanter served as chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation, serving more than 45,000 students with a total budget of approximately $400 million. She is the first community college leader to serve as U.S. undersecretary of education. In 1977, after serving as an alternative high school teacher in Massachusetts and New York, she established the first program for students with learning disabilities at San Jose City College in California. She then served as a director, dean and subsequently vice chancellor for policy and research for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento. In 1990, she returned to San Jose City College as vice president of instruction and student services until she was named president of De Anza College in 1993, serving in this position for a decade until her appointment as chancellor.

Dr. Kanter holds a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. Her dissertation addressed demographic, institutional and assessment factors affecting access to higher education for underrepresented students in California’s community colleges. In 1994, she opened the first Advanced Technology Center in California's community college system, and promoted local and state policies to advance Foothill-De Anza's legacy of excellence and opportunity for California's expanding and increasingly diverse student population. She received her master’s degree in education with a concentration in clinical psychology and public practice from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brandeis University.  

Past President's Award Winners