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.”



Newseum Institute Vice President, Dr. Charles Haynes received 2017 Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education.

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.  Read press release >>

2016 Award Recipient

Joseph Gauld

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.”  Read more

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.”

Gauld received his award at the 2016 National Forum on Character Education before an audience that included educators and community leaders from 45 states and 20 countries. The award ceremony is sponsored by Learning for Life.

2015 Award Recipient

Edward DeRocheDr. 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.

2014 Award Recipient

Kristie FinkKristin 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.

Read press release >>

2013 Award Recipient

Dr. Maurice Elias, Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement in Character Education AwardDr. 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. Read press release >>

2012 Award Recipient

Dr. Jacques Benninga, 2012 Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement in Character Education AwardDr. Jacques Benninga
Sept. 5, 2012, Washington, DC – 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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“For more than 25 years, Dr. Benninga has been a major force in promoting quality character education in California and beyond,” said Mark Hyatt, past President & CEO. “His 1991 book, Moral, Character & Civic Education in Elementary School, helped launch today’s character education movement.” He has also written approximately 40 journal articles on character education and sustainability.

This annual award is named in honor of Sanford N. McDonnell, Chairman Emeritus of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation and It is’s highest honor. The recipient of the “Sandy Award” is an individual who, over a significant period of time, has been an outstanding role model of good character and has also met one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Strong and widely influential advocacy of quality character education.
  2. Outstanding contributions that have broad impact on any or all of the domains in which character development takes place (school, family, community and sports)
  3. Being a friend and supporter of character education by mentoring character education leaders or supporting the field philanthropically.

Dr. Benninga will receive the award on Nov. 2 in Washington, DC, during the 2012 National Forum on Character Education, before an audience of more than 800 educators from across the country.

“To my knowledge, no one else has done research illuminating the factors that enable schools to sustain quality character education once they achieve it,” said Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, endowed professor of character education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a former “Sandy Award” winner.

Dr. Benninga joined Dr. Berkowitz in pioneering research on the relationship between character education and academic achievement. Their review of the literature on this question and the results of their own study showed a positive relationship between academic achievement and the implementation of certain principles from’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. Their study in 120 California elementary schools showed that deeper character education correlates with higher state test scores for at least three years. This study continues to offer answers to people who ask, “Does character have an academic payoff?”

At the Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship, Dr. Benninga and his colleagues have done groundbreaking work to create professional development opportunities and materials that enable teachers to reflect together on the practical ethical dilemmas they face in their work with students.

“All of us at applaud the committee’s selection for this year’s lifetime achievement award, named in honor of our founding chairman and inspirational leader, Sandy McDonnell,” Hyatt said. “In addition to being an author, widely-respected scholar, teacher and researcher, and genuine thought leader in our field, Jacques is a humble and quiet professional who has done remarkable work for many years without fanfare or attention. His support for countless school leaders throughout California and the rest of the nation has helped them to create school cultures that foster and reinforce honesty, respect, diligence, responsibility, service and citizenship.”

Previous Sandy Award Winners

  • 2011  Dr. Sheldon Berman
  • 2010  Linda McKay
  • 2009  Kathy Beland
  • 2008  Dr. Avis Glaze
  • 2007  Dr. Philip Vincent
  • 2006  Dr. Marvin Berkowitz
  • 2005  Dr. Hal Urban
  • 2004  Dr. Diane Berreth
  • 2003  Dr. Eric Schaps
  • 2002  Sir John Marks Templeton
  • 2001  Dr. Thomas Lickona
  • 2000  Dr. Kevin Ryan
  • 1999  Sanford N. McDonnell
  • 1998  Dr. Edward Wynne

The Sandy Award is sponsored by Learning for Life.