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Sandy Awards: Past Recipients

Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education

To read more about our recipients’ amazing accomplishments, please click on his/her name below.

Michael Josephson - 2022

Michael Josephson is an influential and internationally renowned champion of character education for youth and ethical conduct in business, government, policing, journalism, sports, healthcare, and law. His unwavering commitment and dedication over several decades has helped to integrate and strengthen character education in K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations across the United States and across the world. 

In 1987, after a distinguished 20-year career teaching law and as the CEO of a prominent legal education company (Josephson bar Review Center), he resigned his professorship and sold his business to found the Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit organization named in honor of his parents. Mr. Josephson has served as the Institute’s president. All proceeds from his presentations and consultations go to the Institute.

He has authored more than a dozen books and major studies including biennial surveys and reports on the Ethics of American Youth (since 1992 these reports provide the benchmark for measuring the values, attitudes, and conduct of high school students), a Model Code of Journalism Ethics for Associated Press Managing Editors, Olympism and Olympic Ideals for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Make US Proud (training program for all U.S. athletes participating in the 2012 Olympic Games), and the  Exemplary Peace Officer series (for police). In 2014, he wrote the Model Standards for Academic, Social, Emotional, and Character Development providing a road map for educators for a comprehensive integrated student development model. 

He has been named the UCLA Alumnus of the Year, an honor given to less than 70 of the nearly 600,000 people who earned degrees from UCLA. He has also received America’s Award for Integrity presented by former President Ronald Reagan. In 2015, the U.S. State Department commissioned him to consult with government and educational institutions in Seoul, South Korea regarding their character education efforts.

Michele Borba - 2021

Dr. Michele BorbaMichele Borba, Ed.D. is an internationally renowned educator, award-winning author, and parenting child expert recognized for her solution-based strategies to strengthen children’s empathy, social-emotional intelligence and character, and reduce peer cruelty. A sought-after motivational speaker, she has spoken in 19 countries on five continents, and served as a consultant to hundreds of schools and corporations. Clients include Sesame Street, Harvard, U.S. Air Force Academy, 18 US Army bases in Europe and Asian-Pacific, H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and a TEDx Talk: “Empathy Is a Verb.” She offers research-based parenting advice culled from a career working worldwide with over one million parents and educators. 

She is the award-winning author of 24 books translated into 19 languages including Nobody Likes Me, No More Misbehavin’, Don’t Give Me that Attitude!, Building Moral Intelligence, Parents Do Make A Difference, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy, and UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. Her latest book is titled: Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. 


Larry Nucci - 2020

Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and currently teaching at UC Berkeley, Dr. Larry Nucci has written eight books on children’s moral and social development, including the groundbreaking Education in the Moral Domain (2001). In 2017, he received the Association for Moral Education’s Kuhmerker Career Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research and Practice in Moral Education. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Human Development from 2007 through 2019 and is a member of the editorial boards of Cognitive Development, Parenting Science and Practice and the Journal of Character Education. In 2016, he delivered the keynote address Chracter: A Multi-faceted Developmental System to the panel on character education for the National Academy of Sciences.

Clifton Talbert - 2019

Clifton L. Taulbert was born on the Mississippi Delta during the era of legal segregation. Today, he is the President and CEO of the Freemount Corporation, a human capital development company serving Fortune 500 clients. He is also the President and CEO of Roots Java Coffee – an African-American owned national coffee brand that imports its coffee from Africa. His first book Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored became a national best seller, a major motion picture and a requested gift for Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. He has written 12 other books, including Eight Habits of the Heart, which former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked Clifton to talk about in a formal address to the members of the Supreme Court and their invited guests. He was the first African-American to win the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Non-Fiction.

Scott Raecker - 2018

Scott Raecker is the Executive Director of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University – a position he has held since the Center was founded in 1997 by former Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray. The Ray Center has a mission to improve civility through character development and ethical leadership. More recently, the Ray Center became the global provider for the CHARACTER COUNTS! and Pursuing Victory With Honor initiatives, founded by Michael Josephson and the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Scott served as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1999 through 2012.

Charles Haynes - 2017

Dr. Charles Haynes is the Senior Fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington D.C. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life and is best known for his work on First Amendment issues in public schools. Over the past two decades, he has been the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in schools, endorsed by a broad range of religious and educational organizations. Dr. Haynes is the author or co-author of six books, including First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America. He is a founding board member of Character.org and also served as our Board Chair.

Joseph Gauld * - 2016

A seasoned educator, Joe Gauld founded the Hyde School in 1966 after realizing that the singular focus on achievement in American education wouldn’t necessarily lead all students to reach their fullest potential. The Hyde Network of Schools today values effort over achievement and attitude over aptitude. Instead of building a curriculum around five subjects, the school focuses on five words: Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity and Concern. Joe’s unique approach to character development has been featured on 60 Minutes, 20/20, Today, and in The New York Times. He is the author of five books including Character First.

Edward DeRoche - 2015

Professor Edward DeRoche is Professor of Education and Director of the Character Education Resource Center at the University of San Diego. He has been an elementary and junior high teacher, a school principal and a member of a public school board of education. He is a past president of the California Association of Teacher Educators and served as a member of the National Commission on Character Education for the Association of Teacher Educators. Dr. DeRoche is the author of Educating Hearts and Minds: A Comprehensive Character Education Framework.

Kristin Fink - 2014

A former junior high and high school English teacher and a secondary language arts district specialist, Dr. Kristin Fink was the first person in the nation to serve as a full-time character education specialist in a state department of education. She is the former executive director of Community of Caring in Washington, D.C., where she worked for Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Dr. Fink is the co-author (with Karen Geller) of the publication Integrating the Common Core and Character Education and she served for many years on the board of Character.org.

Maurice Elias - 2013

Dr. Maurice Elias is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab at Rutgers University (NJ). Among his many books are Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators and Emotionally Intelligent Parenting. He has also written a book for young children called Talking Treasure: Stories to Help Build Emotional Intelligence and Resilience in Young Children. The Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab is dedicated to conducting action-research in school settings for the purpose of building children’s skills for facing the tests of life and not a life of tests.

Jacques Benninga - 2012

Emeritus Professor/Emeritus Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Fresno State University (CA), Dr. Jacques Benninga is the founding director of the Bonner Center for Character Education and Citizenship. He is the author of 40 peer review journal articles and the popular book Moral, Character, and Civic Education in the Elementary School. For the past 33 years, the Bonner Center has sponsored an award program to recognize excellence in character education in the Central Valley. The Center also co-sponsors the Kremen School’s annual Conference on Character and Civic Education. Dr. Benninga is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Character Education.

Sheldon Berman - 2011

The only superintendent to receive the “Sandy Award,” Dr. Sheldon Berman is the American Association of School Administrator’s Lead Superintendent for Social-Emotional Learning after serving as Superintendent of the Andover Public Schools (MA), Superintendent of the Eugene (Oregon) School District, the Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky and Superintendent of the Hudson Public Schools (MA). He is the author of two books— Children’s Social Consciousness and Promising Practices in Teaching Social Responsibility—as well as numerous articles. Dr. Berman was a founder and president of Educators for Social Responsibility and a founding member of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning).

Linda McKay - 2010

Linda McKay has been a leader in the field of character development for more than 30 years. She campaigned vigorously on Capitol Hill in the 1990s until Congress passed legislation to give grants to schools to implement character education. In 2002, she was asked to establish the Office for Character Education and Civic Engagement at the Department of Education.  Prior to joining the Department of Education she directed CharacterPlus, a non-profit organization based in St. Louis, MO. Linda was a founding member of Character.org and for several years she served as the organization’s Board Chair. Linda has authored numerous publications about character development and ethical decision-making.

Kathy Beland - 2009

A teacher and curriculum developer for over 35 years, Kathy Beland is executive director emeritus of School-Connect, a leading provider of social-emotional curriculum for high school students. She is the original author of the award-winning series Second Step: A Violence-Prevention Curriculum (grades pre-k through middle school) as well as a key leader in the development of Character.org’s 11 Principles Sourcebook, the basis for most of our work the last 20+ years. Kathy also served as Director for School & Beyond in Bethesda, MD and Director of Research and Development at the Committee for Children in Seattle, WA.

Avis Glaze - 2008

An internationally renowned thought-leader who has influenced educators in 50 jurisdictions globally, Dr. Avis Glaze has been described as one of the 18 women all educators should know. She is the first educator to receive the Order of Ontario (Canada) for outstanding contributions to education, including her seminal work in the field of character development. As a young girl growing up in Jamaica, she solidified her career choice when a teacher intervened in a name-calling incident. “Teachers can be fair,” she thought and decided right then to pursue teaching instead of law, her initial choice. Dr. Glaze is the author of education system reviews, articles and books. Her biography, The Children Cannot Wait, documents many lessons learned along her educational journey. Visit her website at avisglaze.ca.

Philip Vincent - 2007

A former classroom teacher, Dr. Philip Vincent founded the Character Development Group in 1995. The organization was a major publisher of character-inspired books including the volume Developing Character in Students (currently in its 5th Edition). Dr. Vincent served as co-Principal Investigator on several grants from the U.S. Department of Education to longitudinally study character development within the “ethos” or life of the school.

Marvin Berkowitz - 2006

The inaugural Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Character Education, and Co-Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Dr. Marvin Berkowitz also served as the inaugural Ambassador H.H. Coors Professor of Character Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is the author of the popular book You Can’t Teach Through a Rat: And Other Epiphanies for Educators and is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Character Education.

Hal Urban - 2005

For thirty-six years Dr. Hal Urban was an award-winning high school teacher. He is the author of seven “character-inspired” books and has traveled more than two million miles while speaking nationally and internationally on positive character traits and their relationship to the quality of life. His best-selling book Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter was endorsed by Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard and Rabbi Harold Kushner. He is also the author of Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things That Good Teachers Do.

Diane Berreth - 2004

Dr. Diane Berreth is the former Deputy Executive Director for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the largest professional development organization for educators in the United States. A longtime member of the Character.org board of directors, she co-authored with Sheldon Berman the widely-read article “The Moral Dimension of Schools” in Educational Leadership. A respected voice on Capitol Hill, Dr. Berreth regularly provided expert testimony on the importance of character development in our nation’s schools.

Eric Schaps* - 2003

Dr. Eric Schaps was widely-known for developing the Caring School Community program that fosters in students an emotional attachment to school. More recently, Dr. Schaps served as an Executive Consultant to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). He is the author of three books and 75 book chapters and articles. Dr. Schaps participated in the landmark Character Counts! Aspen Summit. He is the founder of the groundbreaking Developmental Studies Center, based in Oakland, CA. The organization changed its name to the Center for the Collaborative Classroom.


Sir John Templeton* - 2002

Born in Tennessee in 1912, Sir John Templeton graduated from Yale University and was named a Rhodes Scholar, attending Balliol College at Oxford University. He started his Wall Street career in 1938 and in 1999 Money magazine called him “arguably the greatest stock picker of all time.” An unfailing optimist, a believer in progress and a relentless questioner and contrarian, he established the John Templeton Foundation in 1987. A grant from the John Templeton Foundation provided the catalytic support to increase the visibility and stature of our National Schools of Character program.


Thomas Lickona - 2001

Arguably the most widely-known character educator in the world today, Dr. Thomas Lickona is a developmental psychologist, professor of education emeritus and founding director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility) at the State University of New York at Cortland. A past president of the Association for Moral Education, Tom speaks around the world on fostering moral values and character development in schools, families, and communities. His eight books on moral development and character education have been translated into ten languages, including the classic Educating for Character.

Kevin Ryan - 2000

Founding Director of Boston University’s Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, Dr. Kevin Ryan has played a pivotal role in nurturing the growth of character development throughout the United States. He has written or edited over 20 books, including the classic Building Character in Schools (with Dr. Karen Bohlin, his long-time collaborator).

Sanford McDonnell* - 1999

The Founder of Character.org (formerly the Character Education Partnership), Sandy McDonnell was a lifelong believer in character development. An Eagle Scout in high school, he implemented a Code of Ethics based on the Scout’s Promise when he became CEO of McDonnell-Douglas. He also founded CharacterPlus (based in St. Louis) and endowed a chair in character education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is a past president of the Boy Scouts of America.


Edward Wynne* - 1998

Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Edward Wynne wrote many books and articles arguing that schools have a historic responsibility to transmit moral wisdom to all students. He is co-author (along with Kevin Ryan) of the book Reclaiming Our Schools: Teaching Character, Academics, and Discipline.