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Belle Wheelan, whose career has included serving as president of one of the nation’s largest community college systems and is currently the first African-American and woman to head one of the premiere higher education accreditation organizations, will 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 AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. "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 at AACC's annual convention in April in Orlando, Fla.
Wheelan's leadership significantly influences national policy impacting higher education and accreditation. Since 2005, she has led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which oversees accreditation for schools in the 11 southern states. Most recently, Wheelan served on the federal Committee on Measures of Student Success, which last month completed its recommendations to better gauge student success at community colleges.
Wheelan’s career in higher education spans more than three decades and includes numerous titles and roles. Before joining SACSCOC, she served as Virginia’s education secretary for more than three years. Previously, she was president of Northern Virginia Community College and president of Central Virginia Community College.
Earlier in her career, Wheelan served as provost of the Portsmouth Campus of Tidewater Community College (Virginia), as well as dean of student services at Thomas Nelson Community College (Virginia). Prior to moving to the commonwealth, Wheelan was director of developmental education at San Antonio College in Texas.
Wheelan has received numerous awards and recognitions over her career. In 2001, Washingtonian Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C. The following year, the American Association of University Women presented her with a Woman of Distinction Award. In 2007, she received the Suanne Davis Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's (NISOD) Distinguished Lecturer Award, followed by the John E. Roueche NISOD's International Leadership Award in 2010.
Wheelan holds and has held membership in numerous local, state and national organizations and has served on the board of directors of AACC, ACT and Lumina Foundation.
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