Distinguished Service Awards

Distinguished Service Awards are given annually to retired AASA members who exhibit exemplary leadership throughout their careers and who have enhanced the profession of school administration.


Eligible nominees are retired AASA members who:

  • have been members for at least 10 years
  • have been retired for at least one year
  • have brought honor to themselves, their colleagues and their profession
  • have given exemplary service to their state or national professional association
  • have made significant contributions to the field of education through their service, writings and other activities

The immediate past president of AASA is automatically nominated to receive this recognition.


AASA begins accepting nominations in April annually.

Nominations must be completed via the online form by September 1.

At least two but no more than four pages of additional data must be attached to the nomination through the online form.

No publications or additional testimonials will be accepted.

Selection Process

The selection of recipients annually shall include at least one person who is not or has not ever been a superintendent of schools if such an individual is nominated and otherwise qualifies, and at least one person who retired as an active superintendent of schools who is nominated and also meets the qualifications.

The nominations shall be judged by a Screening Committee appointed by the president of the Association. Such Committee shall submit its recommendation to the Executive Committee in order for action to be taken prior to the presentation of the award.

Of all nominations received, the Screening Committee shall prepare a list of the top eight nominees in rank order and based upon nominee qualifications, may recommend up to eight (8) award recipients.

Upon the end of his or her presidential term, AASA’s immediate past president will automatically become a nominee of the Distinguished Service Award.

Congratulations to the
2023 Distinguished Service Award Winners
Paul W. Imhoff
Dr. Paul Imhoff has been a public educator for over 30 years earning his Bachelor’s and Doctor of Education Degrees from Miami University and his Master’s Degree from the University of Dayton. Imhoff was an Ohio superintendent for 16 years, serving the Mariemont Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Upper Arlington Schools in Columbus, Ohio. He is a member of the Watkins Memorial High School Alumni Hall of Fame and the Mariemont High School Doc Kusel Hall of Fame. He was selected as the Ohio Superintendent of the Year in 2018 and was the President of AASA in 2021/2022. Currently Imhoff serves as the Director of Government Relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio’s Superintendent Association. In addition, Imhoff is active in the AASA Leadership Network leading the Mental Health Cohort and the Eastern States Consortium.
Paul Kinder
Former Superintendent of the Blue Springs R-IV School District, Paul Kinder is a 41-year educator who retired in 2021. He spent 38 of those years in administration with 22 of them as a superintendent in three different school districts in two different states. During his 17 years as superintendent in Blue Springs, he passed $288 million dollars in bonds and had eight schools receive the National Blue Ribbon award. Under his leadership, the District also received The Best Place to Work award for the large business category from the Kansas City Business Journal in 2005 and 2011. He served as President of the Missouri Association of School Administrators in 2009-10 and was the Missouri Superintendent of the year in 2007. Dr. Kinder has also served in leadership roles in several other states and local organizations including president of the Missouri State High School Activities Association in 2008-09. He currently spends his time with his wife Leslie and their three grandchildren.
Donna L. Wright
Dr. Wright has served in many roles in her 40-plus year career as a public school educator. She has positively influenced the educational field as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, deputy director and school superintendent. Dr. Wright was named “Superintendent of the Year” by the Professional Educators of Tennessee in 2016, selected as the “Superintendent of the Year” for 2019 by the Mid-Cumberland Region of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, and named the “2020 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year” by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. Although Dr. Wright retired from public education this past year, she continues to work with colleagues and school districts around the country, and is dedicated to mentoring women who aspire to become leaders in school administration, most notably, school superintendents.

Past Award Recipients
View All Prior Awardees


  • Sheldon H. Berman, Retired Superintendent of Andover Public Schools, Andover, MA
  • Jim Mahoney, Retired Executive Director of Battelle for Kids, Columbus, OH
  • Jule Walker, Retired Deputy State Superintendent of Operations, Montana Office of Public Education, Helena, MT
  • Kristi Wilson, Superintendent, Buckeye Elementary School District, Buckeye, AZ


  • Paul S. Andrews, Retired Superintendent of Woburn Public School, Woburn, MA
  • Gary Kelly, Retired Superintendent of DuQuoin Community Unit School District #300, DuQuoin, IL
  • Deborah Kerr, Retired Superintendent of Brown Deer School District, Caledonia, WI


  • Johnny L. Veselka, Executive Director Emeritus, Texas Association of School Administrators, Cedar Park, TX
  • Chris Gaines, Superintendent, Mehlville School District, St. Louis, MO


  • Dwight D. Jones, Senior Vice President, Equity, Inclusion & Urban Markets, McGraw-Hill Education, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Gail Pletnick, Retired Superintendent and AASA Past President


  • Tacy Ashby, Senior Vice President of Strategic Educational Alliances at Grand Canyon University (GCU) in Phoenix, Arizona
  • Alton Frailey, Retired Superintendent, Katy Independent School District, Houston, TX
  • Darlene Pierce, Retired Business Development, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Alexandria, VA
  • Jerry Weast, Retired Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland
  • Jane Westerhold, Retired Superintendent, Community Consolidated School District 62, Des Plaines, IL


  • Robert Mills, Retired Director General, Lester B. Pearson School Board, Dorval, Quebec Canada
  • Harry Rossi, Retired Superintendent, District 30 Glenview, Ill.
  • David R. Schuler, AASA Past President, Superintendent, Township High School District 214, Arlington Heights, Ill.
  • James F. Shoemake, Retired Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Wash.


  • Bruce Hunter, for his influence on Capitol Hill to help AASA shape legislation to meet the needs of children.
  • Spike Jorgensen, founding member and later executive director of Citizens for hte Educational Advancement of Alaska's Children
  • Arthur Stellar, vice president of the National Education Foundation and CyberLearning
  • David Pennington, superintendent of the Ponca City Public School District. (Okla.) and past president of AASA


  • Irwin Blumer, 35 years in the education profession as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and finally as superintendent of schools for 16 years in Massachusetts
  • James F. Causbyis, one of North Carolina’s most renowned education leaders
  • Steve Rasmussen, educational leader in the state of Washington for more than 40 years
  • Amy F. Sichel, superintendent of schools for the Abington School District in Abington, Pa. and past president of AASA
  • Lawrence C. Walker, educational leader for five decades


  • Benny L. Gooden, superintendent of schools in Fort Smith, Ark.
  • Dennis Ray, educational leader for five decades
  • Richard L. Thompson, who has served in public education for 45 years


  • Herbert Berg, leader in public education for 40 years
  • Patricia Neudecker, public school educator for 30 years
  • Paul Shaw, superintendent for twenty-six years in South Carolina and Georgia


  • Edgar B. Hatrick III, AASA past president and superintendent, Loudoun County (Va.)
  • Brian L. Talbott, retired national executive director of the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA)


  • Mark T. Bielang, superintendent of Paw Paw Public Schools (Mich.) and AASA past president
  • Howard Coble, educator for more than 30 years
  • Theodore J. Kowalski, professor at the University of Dayton (Ohio)