Ron Thorpe to Posthumously Receive Prestigious James A. Kelly Award

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Education Visionary Ron Thorpe to Posthumously Receive Prestigious James A. Kelly Award at Teaching & Learning 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ron Thorpe, visionary educator and former president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, will posthumously receive the organization’s James A. Kelly Award at the upcoming Teaching & Learning 2016 conference on March 11, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The Kelly Award, named after James A. Kelly, Founding President and CEO, recognizes and honors individuals who have fostered a level of educational excellence befitting of the award’s namesake, National Board founding president James A. Kelly.

Thorpe died last summer atat the age of 63, after a battle with lung cancer. He is fondly remembered as an innovative leader who led the National Board from 2011 until 2015, spearheading significant initiatives to boost the National Board’s advanced certification program and raise the status of the teaching profession across the nation.

“Ron was a passionate supporter for teachers and did as much as anyone in recent memory to elevate the profession of teaching,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president, National Education Association. “He advocated for the highest possible standards for educators and left us a very powerful legacy. We must continue his joyful and dedicated work to honor, advance, and celebrate teachers and their profession.”

Thorpe received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University and began his career as a teaching fellow at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, where he worked under—and was inspired by—headmaster Ted Sizer. Thorpe later went on to hold leadership roles at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation and the Wallace Foundation. As vice president of education at WNET in New York, he championed the creation of the Celebration of Teaching & Learning conference, which went on to become the Teaching & Learning conference in D.C. starting in 2014.

“Ron was a kindred spirit both professionally and personally,” said James A. Kelly. “As the National Board’s leader, he never passed up an opportunity to share his belief that teachers possessed the power to change the lives of students for the better and that National Board Certification should be the goal of all teachers, not an elite few. More importantly, as my dear friend, I will miss Ron’s passion, warmth and enthusiasm, qualities that not only inspired me, but all of those who had the pleasure of knowing him. I am deeply honored to be able to present this award to his wife, Margaret, and celebrate his work and his legacy with family, friends and peers.”

Since its inception in 1999, the James A. Kelly award has worked to identify individuals who embody the following traits:

  • A deep-seated belief in the inherent right of all children to a quality education;
  • A professional life dedicated to improving education for teachers and their students;
  • A passionate commitment to improving teaching and learning in America;
  • Unwavering dedication to the professional integrity and competence of teachers;
  • Visionary and boundless energy, eternal optimism, and expert leadership;
  • An innate capacity to inspire collaboration and mobilize support that enabled unparalleled achievements in the history of American education reform; and
  • A clear vision coupled with steadfast commitment and fierce determination which has led to historic milestones in American education and meaningful impact on teaching and learning.

Past recipients of this award include President Bill Clinton; the Honorable Richard Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education; Senator Arlen Specter; the Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr.; Gov. Roy Barnes; Linda Darling-Hammond; and Gov. Ted Strickland.

The James A. Kelly Award ceremony will start at 10:00 am, March 11, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. The National Board encourages all accomplished teachers, administrators, policymakers and thought leaders to register now to secure their spot at T&L2016. Media are encouraged to apply for press credentials immediately to the media contact listed above.

To learn more, stay up-to-date on the latest announcements or register for the event, please visit, follow T&L2016 on Twitter (@TeachLearnConf) or like it on Facebook.