Lifetime Achievement Award

The National Education Finance Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients have been individuals who have distinguished themselves over a career in the financing of education on a national, state, and local level through research and practice.  The winners reflect individuals who have contributed nationally to the improvement of education funding.  The winners are chosen by a distinguished panel of education finance experts from nominations made from individuals and organizations across the nation.  In every instance, the winners have been individuals who were nationally recognized experts in the field of financing education.  Individuals have written major textbooks, scholarly journal articles in leading education finance journals, and served as consultants to school districts, universities, and state legislatures as well as served as expert witnesses regarding the financing of education. The winners are professors at major research universities as well as education finance practitioners who have worked with universities, school districts, and state legislatures.


Neil Theobald, University of Wyoming

Before his appointment to the university's top leadership post by UW Board of Trustees, Theobald served as UW's vice president for finance and administration. 

His extensive career in higher education administration has included multiple roles at Indiana University, where he was a tenured professor for two decades and served in a number of administrative positions -- as senior vice president and chief financial officer (2007-2012), senior vice chancellor (2002-07), and director of the Indiana Education Policy Center (1993-2002).

From 2012-16, he was the president of Temple University, during which time the university improved its U.S. News and World Report ranking 17 places; increased annual research funding by 55 percent to over $250 million per year, which led the Carnegie Foundation to upgrade Temple to its highest research activity classification (R1); and doubled annual fundraising from $39 million to $84 million. In 2014, the Philadelphia Business Journal name Theobald its Most Admired Education CEO.

Prior to earning his PhD at the University of Washington in 1989, Dr. Theobald was a high school math teacher and baseball coach in Seattle. Dr. Theobald is a past-president of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, winning the Association's Jean Flanigan Award for the outstanding dissertation in the study of educational finance in 1990. In 1995, the University Council for Educational Administration presented Dr. Theobald with the Jack A. Culbertson Award as the professor who, in the first seven years of his or her career, made the most outstanding contribution to the profession. 


William J. Fowler, Jr, NCES; George Mason University

Dr. William Bill Fowler, Jr. received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1977. He then worked for the New York Department of Education doing research relevant to school finance equity in New York. In 1978 he joined CEMREL in Chicago and taught school finance at the University of Illinois. In 1981, he supervised a research team at the New Jersey Department of Education that contributed evidence to the New Jersey school finance equity cases.

In 1987 he joined the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington, DC, where he supervised and conducted research in school finance, with several publications focused on inequalities in public school district revenues and expenditures. With David Monk and Lori Taylor, he contributed to research that focused on cost adjustments in education. He also created and maintained a web page on school finance, "edfin" that NCES still maintains. Dr. Fowler is best known for his many workshops and generous assistance to beginning scholars on education finance data and queries thereof, which remains as the most respected national source for education finance data. He retired in 2006 to teach school finance at George Mason University. In 2019, based on his desire to advance applied research in education finance, he and his wife established the NEFA Fowler Policy Research Grant to promote new scholars' entry and participation into the NEFA academic and institutional research community. He was the recipient of the NEFA Research and Practice Fellow Award in 2018. He and his wife have now retired and currently reside in Colorado.


Barbara De Luca, University of Dayton

Barbara De Luca, has a Ph.D. from THE Ohio State University in Economics and Consumer Economics.
Dr. De Luca taught at the University of Dayton for 20 years in the College of Arts & Sciences. In 1995, she moved to the School of Education and Health Sciences where she has taught School Finance (both p-12 and higher ed) and currently teaches primarily Research Design, Dissertation Seminar, and Statistics in the Ph.D. program. She recently spent four years as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Research. In years past, Dr. De Luca was Founder and Director of the First-Year Experience Program at the University of Dayton, as well as Associate Director of the Honors and Scholars Programs. She is currently in her 42nd year at UD. Prior to her Higher education career, she taught junior high school for four years. Dr. De Luca’s research focuses on school finance.


Walter McMahon, University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana

Walter McMahon is Professor of Economics, and Professor of Education (EOL), both Emeritus, at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

His Phd is from the University of Iowa, with Pre and Post Doctorals at the London School of Economics. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Econometrics Institute in Stockholm, INSEE Research Department in Paris, London School of Economics, Erasmus University in Rotterdam, and University of Sussex in England.

Recent books include Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education, Johns Hopkins University Press (2017 paperback, 2009); and Education and Development: Measuring the Social Benefits, Oxford University Press (2018 forthcoming 2nd Ed. 2002),Education and Development, a 4 volume reference work, Routledge (2012) and Improving Education Finance in Indonesia, Government of Indonesia and UNICEF, 2002. Recent articles include The Total Return to Higher Education: Is There Underinvestment for Growth and Development?, Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, (2018 forthcoming), Non Monetary Private Returns of Higher Education and The Social Benefits of Higher Education both in the Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions, Pedro Teixeira, Ed.,Springer (2018), Financing Education for the Public Good Journal of Education Finance, (2015), Education’s Effects on Life Chances and Development: An Overview in the British Journal of Education Studies (2013); and  Higher Education Budget Issues in Illinois the Institute of Government and Public Affairs Toolbox (2014). An earlier article An Economic Analysis of the Major Determinants of Expenditures on Public Primary and Secondary Education, Review of Economics and Statistics, (1970) led to a long career in both K-12 and higher education finance in the US and worldwide. Professor McMahon has consulted extensively on Basic Education and Development in many developing countries for the World Bank, USAID, UNICEF, and various Education Consulting firms as well as on basic and higher education for the OECD in Paris, Canadian Government, US National Center for Education Statistics, and Research Institutes in London, in Stockholm, and in Strathclyde Scotland. He received the PROSE award for the best book in Education in 2010, the research for which was sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, and the award as a Distinguished Research Fellow in 2012 by the National Education Finance Conference. He was a member of the Illinois State Commission on the Finance of Higher Education and was Chair for two terms of the statewide Faculty Advisory Committee to the Illinois Board if Higher Education.  


R. Craig Wood, University of Florida 

Craig Wood is one of the leading scholars in the field of financing public education in America. He is currently a Professor of Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Florida. His career has spanned public school classroom teacher, school district business manager, and assistant superintendent for finance for school districts across the nation. Prior to his present position, he was a professor of educational administration at Purdue University. He is President of Wood, Rolle & Associates, a national education finance-consulting firm with offices in Gainesville, Florida and Providence, Rhode Island. 

He is one of the most prolific authors in America regarding the funding of public education. His publications record includes more than 250 book chapters, monographs, law reviews, and scholarly journal articles including the American Education Finance Association’s Annual Yearbooks and the Education Law Association’s Handbook of School Law series.

His authored and co-authored books include Money & Schools, (six editions), Education Finance Law (four editions), Fiscal Leadership for Schools, and Principles of School Business Management (three editions). He serves on the editorial boards of Education Law Reporter, Journal of Education Finance, and Education Law & Policy Review. He has published his education finance research in such journals as the Journal of Education Finance, the Kentucky Law Review, The Saint Louis University Public Law Review, The University of Arkansas Law Review, The Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, Educational Considerations, School Business Affairs, Planning & Changing, and the Education Law and Policy Review. He has presented at numerous national academic conferences over the years including those in England and South Africa. 

He has conducted education finance litigation workshops for the National Conference on State Legislatures and the National Association of Attorneys General. He has served as the lead expert involving state constitutional challenges to financing public education in many states over the years. He has served as the lead expert witness for charter schools regarding funding. He has consulted with over two-dozen state legislatures regarding the financing of public education and many school districts. He is a past President of the Association of Education Finance Policy as well as its Executive Director. He is past President of the Education Law Association housed at Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Cleveland, Ohio and the past President of the National Education Finance Academy. He holds an Ed.D. and M.A. Ed. in Educational Administration from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a B.S. cum laude from Campbell University in North Carolina.


Deborah Verstegen is Professor of Education Policy and Finance at the University of Nevada Reno. She has served as a consultant to local, state and national organizations/governments, has twice been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Educational Finance Association, is on the NEFC Board of Advisors and was editor of the Journal of Education Finance. She has published extensively and is co-editor of Spheres of Justice in Education and The Impacts of Litigation and Legislation on Public School Finance. She serves on numerous editorial boards, is policy editor of the Journal of Education Finance, past Chair of the AERA SIG on Fiscal Issues, Policy and Education Finance, and Founder of Women Education Leaders in Virginia. She has served as expert witness in finance litigation and developed an equity statistic. Her text Financing Education in a Climate of Change (2016) was recently released by Pearson, Inc.  Deborah joined the university community after serving as teacher and administrator in public, private and alternative education.


Mary McKeown-Moak has been the senior financial officer for a university system, associate director of finance and facilities for a state higher education agency, a school finance specialist, foundation business officer, professor, and consultant to colleges and universities, legislatures, governors, foundations, and school districts. She has developed state or system funding formulas and/or performance funding systems for universities and community colleges in 36 states, school transportation and general state funding formulas in 10 states; and has worked with over 500 colleges, universities, and school districts on issues of resource allocation, facilities, human resources and strategic planning. She also has served as an expert witness in education finance court cases. She has authored five books on educational finance and management and published over 400 articles and chapters in books on education finance and management.


William Hartman, is a Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University. He has a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with High Honors from the University of Florida, a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University. His present research focuses on understanding and investigating the impacts on school districts of the current economic crisis-the new fiscal reality. Other areas of interest include school budgeting, resource allocation at school and district levels, decision-making models in educational finance, and special education finance

Richard G. Salmon is a recognized national authority in the area of public school finance. He has authored several textbooks, monographs, technical reports, and numerous journal articles in some of the most prestigious journals, including articles in the Journal of Education Finance, where he also serves as a member of the Board of Editors. He has conducted studies in twenty-seven states presented research in federal and state trials. Professor Salmon has spent most of his career at Virginia Tech, arriving as an assistant professor in 1972 and retiring as professor in 2010. He was appointed as Professor Emeritus in 2011.


David C. Thompson, professor and chair of the educational leadership department in the College of Education at Kansas State University, is often sought out by national media on school funding issues and has authored textbooks on the subject used at more than 200 universities. Thompson’s 40-year career includes experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent and the professoriate.


Lynn Moak has been involved in virtually every major education finance policy change since 1967. He has developed research presented in every major case regarding public school finance since the Edgewood litigation in 1984. He has conducted research into many facets of public education finance including administrative costs, cost variations associated with size, economic factors, community differentials, and changing state policy. He has participated in the basic design of state systems to gather and report financial and other information. At the regional and local level, he has assisted districts in projects ranging from the design of data systems to the analysis of revenue and expenditure options.


Kern Alexander holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Oxford, Pembroke College and Indiana University, Bloomington. He is now Excellence Professor of Educational Administration at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Earlier in his career he served as Professor of Educational Administration at the University of Florida for two decades, University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, President of Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green and, twice as President of Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky. Dr. Alexander takes an active part in state school finance planning and litigation. He is Editor of the Journal of Education Finance. His research interests are in the areas of public education finance, policy and law.