CIC Presidents Present 2016 Awards during Annual Conference

1/14/2016 — Washington, DC

​​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) announced the recipients of its 2016 awards on January 6 during the annual Presidents Institute in Miami Beach, Florida. CIC presented the Award for Philanthropy (Organization) to The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation and the Award for Philanthropy (Individuals) to O. Jay and Patricia Tomson. The Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service was presented to W. Robert Connor.

Chris Kimball, chair of the CIC Board of Directors and president of California Lutheran University, and Richard Ekman, president of CIC, presented the awards.
During his introduction, Ekman said, “These awards are an important way for CIC presidents to celebrate and honor organizations and individuals who have contributed generously to independent higher education—through their professional expertise, philanthropic generosity, or both. CIC is extremely pleased to have the opportunity to recognize the individuals and organizations who stand as role models for philanthropists and college trustees everywhere and who have strengthened independent higher education and provided opportunities and access for students.”
The 2016 Awards for Philanthropy celebrate individuals and organizations who demonstrate the love of humankind through consequential giving and who provide an example of the philanthropic spirit. In announcing the 2016 Award for Philanthropy (Organization) to The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, President Kimball said, “The award celebrates a foundation whose support of private colleges and universities and CIC has demonstrated leadership and vision and has, consequently, made a significant difference in the vitality of independent higher education.” The foundation also is being honored, Kimball said, because it “seeks to improve the lives of individuals and communities by helping to meet basic nutritional and educational opportunity needs through long-term partnerships with both colleges and congregations.”
The foundation launched its flagship education program, the Bonner Scholars Program, in 1990 in partnership with Berea College in Kentucky. Originally designed to provide students with “access to education and an opportunity to serve,” the Scholars Program has expanded to become the largest privately-funded, service-based college scholarship program in the nation.
The Bonner Scholars Program provides four years of support and the opportunity to take part in an intensive cohort experience to students with high financial need and a strong service ethic. Today, the Bonner Foundation helps other campuses replicate the Bonner Scholars Program model using such resources as the Federal Work Study Program. The Bonner program successfully contributes to the enrollment and graduation of diverse student populations, including low-income and first-generation students. More than 60 campuses, including more than 40 CIC members, currently host Bonner programs, engaging nearly 3,000 students each year.
Accepting the award on behalf of the foundation was Robert Hackett, president of the Bonner Foundation since 2010. He joined the foundation in 1992 as vice president and director of the Bonner Scholars Program.
In presenting the Award for Philanthropy (Individual) to O. Jay and Patricia Tomson, President Kimball said, “Three colleges—Wartburg College, Luther College, and St. Olaf College—have benefited significantly from the generous personal gifts and extensive volunteer services of O. Jay and Patricia Tomson.”
O. Jay Tomson, who served as a member of the Wartburg Board of Regents and is past president of the Independent Bankers Association of America, was instrumental in creating Wartburg’s James A. Leach Chair in Banking and Monetary Economics. Patricia Tomson’s career in social work prompted the couple’s challenge grant to create the O. Jay and Patricia Tomson Professorship in Social Work. In 2009, they established the Tomson Social Work Student-Faculty Research Fund to provide summer experiential learning opportunities for social work students.
In addition, the Tomsons have generously supported their alma mater, St. Olaf College, for more than 50 years. Their largest single gift, a commitment announced in 2009, has funded the renovation of St. Olaf’s old science building into a new home for the education and foreign language departments. And Luther College’s Tomson Family Faculty Fellowships, funded by donations from the Tomsons and their bank, benefit faculty members in music, accounting, mathematics, and business/economics.
CIC honored W. Robert Connor with the 2016 Allen P. Splete Award for Outstanding Service for devoting his career to “working actively on behalf of higher education and liberal arts colleges.”
Connor was president of the Teagle Foundation from 2003 to 2009 and now serves as its senior advisor. Before assuming leadership of the Teagle Foundation, Connor was president and director of the National Humanities Center, which he transformed from a “quiet island of scholarship” into a powerful force for intellectual inquiry in the humanities. During his tenure, the center became a national focus for the best work in the liberal arts, encouraging excellence in scholarship to strengthen the liberal arts and recognizing the importance of the humanities in American life.
At Teagle, Connor both reaffirmed the foundation’s commitment to higher education and refocused its mission to improve student learning in the liberal arts and sciences. He oversaw the awarding of grant initiatives designed to take student learning to a higher level. Significantly, Connor partnered with CIC and individual institutions to advocate for the independence of private higher education institutions to assess the results of their own educational programs. From 2004 to 2013, he provided both financial and personal support for CIC’s work with a consortium of as many as 47 colleges and universities using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) instrument to learn more about the cognitive growth of students. The CLA is one of the first “value-added” measures that can reliably compare institutional contributions to student learning.

​The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 765 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions to improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility. CIC conducts the largest annual conferences of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. CIC also provides support to state fundraising associations that organize programs and generate contributions for private colleges and universities. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.​