Belle Wheelan to Receive National Leadership Award

Dec 01, 2011, 11:20 ET from American Association of Community Colleges

Groundbreaking leader of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission to be recognized

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A groundbreaking leader who is the first African-American and the first woman to serve as president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Dr. Belle Wheelan, has been chosen to receive the 2012 Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

"It is rare one finds a leader, like Dr. Belle Wheelan, who has had such a broad impact across higher education," said Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of AACC. "She has broken down barriers personally and professionally, and at the same time, she has challenged all of us to build a better educational system that aspires to the highest standards."

Wheelan attributes her success to hard work, endurance, tenacity and being in the right place at the right time.  The award will be presented during AACC's annual convention, being held April 20-24, 2012 in Orlando, Fla.

Wheelan's leadership significantly influences national policy impacting higher education and accreditation. She has led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission since July 2005. The commission oversees accreditation for schools in the 11 southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) and Latin America, that grant associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees.

Her career in higher education spans more than three decades and includes numerous titles and roles. Wheelan served as Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia for three and a half years, where she served as a member of the governor's cabinet and steered education policy. She was president of Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the United States, and president of Central Virginia Community College.

She served as provost of the Portsmouth campus of Tidewater Community College. Wheelan originally came to Virginia as dean of student services at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Va. Prior to that, she was director of developmental education at San Antonio College.

Wheelan has received numerous awards and recognitions including four honorary degrees, as well as Distinguished Graduate Awards from Trinity University in 2002 and from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin in 1992. She was named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C., in 2001. The American Association of University Women presented her with a Woman of Distinction Award in 2002. She received the Suanne Davis Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's Distinguished Lecturer Award in 2007 and the John E. Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's International Leadership Award in 2010.

Wheelan holds and has held membership in numerous local, state and national organizations including Rotary International, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the President's Round Table of the National Council on Black American Affairs. She has served on the Board of Directors for American College Testing, Inc., AACC and Lumina Foundation.

Wheelan began her educational career at Trinity University in Texas, where she double-majored in psychology and sociology, and received a bachelor's degree in 1972. She earned a master's degree in developmental educational psychology in 1974 from Louisiana State University and was awarded her doctorate in educational administration with a special concentration in community college leadership from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Association of Community Colleges is the leading advocacy organization representing close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges nationwide. Community colleges are the largest sector of higher education, enrolling more than 13 million credit and non-credit students each year. To learn more about the AACC, visit

SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges