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Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award

Each year, honors one individual for his or her long and steadfast commitment to the field of character education. The person so honored receives the prestigious “Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education.”

Past Recipients

Charles Haynes

Charles Haynes


As a founding member of (then the Character Education Partnership), Haynes is well regarded in both the character education and civic education worlds for his ongoing work to further important dimensions of public education in America and internationally.

Known for his eloquence and good judgment, Haynes has long been a steady and persuasive voice to further character education goals within and beyond, serving consistently on the Board of Directors, including many years as Chairman. Over two decades, he has drafted or spearheaded dozens of committees and resources, including advice to lawmakers and governors in the early 90’s on how they could support character education initiatives in their schools.

Joseph Gauld


Decades before there was a national character development movement, Gauld was formulating a vision that put character first in the life of a school. One of his nominators, Matt Davidson, said, “In 1966, Joe saw a need – too many students were falling through the cracks, some were excelling academically but lacking integrity, others were star athletes but inconsiderate and off-track, and others were on the sidelines of life, feeling afraid and under-qualified to fully engage. Joe left his job as a prep school educator to start Hyde School in Bath, Maine.” 

Gauld has written four books—Character First: The Hyde School Difference (1993); Hyde: Preparation for Life (2003); Nature’s Parenting Process: 5 Simple Truths to Empower Our Children (2010); What Kids Want—and Need—from Parents: How to Bond With and Mentor Children (2012)—and is now working on a fifth. He regularly writes blogs on education and parenting for the Huffington Post. His columns have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Education Week, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Independent School magazine. His work has been featured on “The Donahue Show,” NBC’s “The Today Show,” ABC’s “20/20,” and CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Edward DeRoche

Dr. Edward DeRoche


Dr. Edward DeRoche, is the Director of the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego. Dr. DeRoche joined the University of San Diego’s School of Education as dean in 1979 and returned to the faculty as professor and director of the Center for Character Development Center in 1998. He has been an elementary and junior high school teacher, a principal, a member of a public school board of education, and has served on several private school boards.

He is the past president of the California Association of Teacher Educators, past vice president of the San Diego Council on Literacy, and a former member of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. He also served as a member of the National Commission on Character Education for the Association of Teacher Educators.

Kristin Danielson Fink,

Kristin Danielson Fink


Kristin Danielson Fink, a national voice in gaining support for character education and current Utah State University faculty member, received the 2014 Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education.

Ms. Fink has been a leader of America’s character education movement for more than two decades. She has served and made remarkable differences at the local, state and national levels. Board Chairman, Dr. Charles Haynes, said, “No one has done more to advance the cause of character education in schools than Kristie Fink.  Widely admired for her dedication, leadership and caring heart, she also embodies the ideals of Sanford N. McDonnell, for whom this national lifetime achievement award is named.

Dr. Maurice Elias


An internationally recognized authority on character education and social-emotional learning (SEL). He has presented on the topics throughout the U.S., Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and he is scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers at the Forum. His books and publications number in the hundreds, and one book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting, has been translated into nine languages. Dr. Elias’ blog on Edutopia is read by hundreds of thousands of educators worldwide.

“But the most important role that he doesn’t even realize he fills in life is a mentor and coach for those considered to be the ‘younger generation’ within the Social-Emotional Character Development (SECD) field,” said Donna Snyder, manager of ASCD’s Whole Child Programs, and one of the educators who nominated Dr. Elias for the award.

Dr. Jacques Benninga

2012 has chosen Dr. Jacques Benninga to receive the 2012 Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education. Dr. Benninga is Professor and Director of the Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship at California State University, Fresno.

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