ACCT Leadership Congress Day 3: ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown Recognized for Service

by Mark Toner

October 16, 2021

San Diego, October 15 — During the third day of the ACCT Leadership Congress, ACCT President & CEO J. Noah Brown reflected on his quarter century of service to the organization and the community college sector by recalling what he told the CEO selection committee 16 years earlier.

“What I said then, and what I have focused on every day since, was raising the profiles of community colleges as change agents, while emphasizing the potential of trustees to affect policymaking so profoundly that the sector would no longer be marginalized nor neglected,” Brown said in his farewell address during Friday’s keynote luncheon. “As I hand the reins now to your new President and CEO, I do so with the confidence and evidence of an association that has never been stronger… I have been privileged to serve you and the millions of students who rely on your colleges as gateways to the American dream.”

Brown’s remarks followed a video highlighting key moments of his tenure, including conversations with President and Dr. Jill Biden, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and Bill Gates, among others. Videotaped remarks from two former U.S. Department of Education Secretaries and the current Under Secretary of Education recognized ACCT’s longest-serving president’s service to the community college sector.

“We all know our community colleges are so important to our country. We also know that Noah Brown is important to community college leaders everywhere,” said Margaret Spellings, U.S. Secretary of Education during the Bush Administration. “Thank you for the terrific service you have given us.”

“Your work has… influenced tremendous change and improved the lives out countless students… and the growth of the nation’s economy,” said Dick Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education during the Clinton Administration.

James Kvaal, the current Under Secretary of Education, noted Brown’s role as a “trusted advisor to President and Dr. Biden for more than a decade.”

“We are a better country because of Noah’s work,” Kvaal said.

Also Thursday, keynote speaker Nicole Lynn Lewis urged Congress attendees to extend equity efforts to a historically overlooked sector of higher education: the nearly 4 million students who are parents—including nearly half of all black female students and outsized proportions of other students of color. 

“As you work to put action behind the racial equity statements, please know that student parent work is racial justice work, because the needs of parenting students are intertwined with the needs of various other groups,” said Lewis, the founder and CEO of Generation Hope.

Lewis noted that systemic barriers make student parents 10 times less likely to graduate—and that fewer than 2 percent of teenage mothers ever do. Too often, Lewis said, parenting students are “told in subtle and not subtle ways that because they’re parents they don’t belong in college, that their children, who are often their biggest motivators for earning a college degree, are unwanted distractions.”

“The challenging road ahead requires us to get rid of the old ways of doing things,” Lewis added. “It forces us to have uncomfortable conversations about why certain policies and procedures are in place…. Let’s look at our norms with a fresh eye, a new lens.”

The ACCT Leadership Congress continues through Saturday, October 16, with more than 100 workshops and sessions.

For more information, visit http://congress.acct.org. Search #ACCT2021 on Twitter for more from the event.

About ACCT

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond. For more information, go

to www.acct.org. Follow ACCT on Twitter @CCTrustees.