Presented at American Council on Education’s 99th Annual Meeting
Washington, March 13, 2017 – The TIAA Institute today announced Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, as the winner of the 2017 TIAA Institute Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence, one of the most prestigious awards in academia. Named in honor of Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. (1917-2015), former president of the University of Notre Dame and a world-renowned educator and humanitarian, the award recognizes outstanding leadership on the part of a college or university president or chancellor.
Gail Mellow is a true believer in the power of community colleges to change our world for the better. She has built a strong, unified college that places teaching and learning at its core, preparing one of our nation’s most diverse student bodies to successfully navigate a fast-changing society and an uncertain future,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, TIAA Senior Managing Director and Head of the TIAA Institute.
The American Council on Education (ACE), which administers the award on the Institute’s behalf, convened an independent panel of judges that selected the winner. The TIAA Institute bestowed this honor today at ACE2017 in Washington, DC, ACE’s 99th Annual Meeting, which is attended by nearly 2,000 higher education leaders, from deans to presidents, representing all types of post-secondary institutions nationwide.
During President Mellow’s 16-year tenure at LaGuardia Community College, she has tripled the school’s enrollment and doubled full-time faculty. Today LaGuardia serves more than 50,000 degree-seeking and continuing education New Yorkers each year, and has one of the nation’s highest graduation rates among urban community colleges that serve low-income students.
“I’m honored to receive this award in front of fellow educators at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting,” said President Mellow. “I greatly admire Reverend Hesburgh’s legacy as a champion of social justice, and I’m grateful to the TIAA Institute for bestowing on me this award named in his honor. And in recognition of the associations he forged with leaders from a variety of industries to benefit the university he led and their students, I will continue our work developing pathways for our students to rewarding careers through education-to-employment partnerships with community groups and local businesses.”
President Mellow, a community college graduate herself, has focused on helping people get out of poverty and into a life of economic stability for them and their families through education. She led a restructuring of LaGuardia’s programs and services, increasing graduation rates and offering holistic academic, career, and transfer advising, as well as extensive support services to help students address financial issues that arise before they lead them to dropping out. Innovative programs at LaGuardia have helped students bridge the gap between completing high school and succeeding in college.
“ACE is proud to join the TIAA Institute in honoring leaders like Gail Mellow who have confronted head on some of the most challenging issues facing American higher education today,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “President Mellow’s tireless efforts to expand access to postsecondary education and ensure that her students have the tools they need to succeed have immeasurably strengthened both her institution and the entire higher education community.”
The TIAA Institute provides a $20,000 grant to Hesburgh awardees, which President Mellow has decided to contribute in full to the LaGuardia Community College Foundation, which gives out nearly $1.8M annually in scholarships and emergency financial support to the College’s primarily low-income and new-immigrant students. More than 70 percent of LaGuardia students have family incomes that are less than $25,000 a year.
About the TIAA Institute
The TIAA Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness. The Institute conducts in-depth research, provides access to a network of thought leaders and enables those it serves to anticipate trends, plan future strategies and maximize opportunities for success. For more information about the TIAA Institute, visit www.tiaainstitute.org .
TIAA (TIAA.org) is a unique financial partner. With an award-winning1 track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $907 billion in assets under management2 (as of 12/31/2016) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and guidance, and retirement services.
About the ACE
Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing nearly 1,800 college and university presidents and related associations. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy. For more information, please visit www.acenet.edu or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.