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The Distinguished Business Officer Award is NACUBO’s highest annual recognition for individual achievement and acknowledges, honors, and celebrates exemplary leaders whose life-long work has had significant positive impact on advancing business and finance administration in higher education and on the association.

To nominate a colleague complete the online nomination form by March 26, 2024.

View the award criteria and nomination requirements.

Online Nomination Form

Previous Recipients


Joanne DeStefano, Cornell University (retired)

Joanne DeStefano received the 2023 Distinguished Business Officer Award for her extensive contributions to higher education. She recently retired from her role as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Cornell University, where she worked for 33 years. As CFO, DeStefano led a team of about 1,700 staff members and managed a broad portfolio that included budgeting and financial planning, facilities, public safety, risk/compliance/audit, and investments.


Elizabeth Hardin, Harvard University 

Elizabeth Hardin, Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative fellow, received the 2022 Distinguished Business Officer Award for her extensive contributions to higher education. She spent the bulk of her career at the University of North Carolina—Charlotte, where she is credited with developing the managerial and financial systems necessary to grow the institution from a regional campus with $510.4M in net assets to an R2 university with $2.1B in net assets, among other achievements on campus, around Charlotte, and with NACUBO.


David Wheaton

David Wheaton, Macalester College

David Wheaton, who recently retired after nearly 20 years as vice president for administration and finance at Macalester College, received the 2021 Distinguished Business Officer Award, which honors an exemplary leader who has had a significant positive impact on advancing business and finance administration in higher education and on NACUBO. Wheaton oversaw all of Macalester College’s financial functions, in addition to facilities management, human resources, business services, and neighborhood and community relations. He also was active on institutional committees as well as in regional efforts to support liberal arts colleges.  



Al Little 

Al Little, Florida State College at Jacksonville

Al Little, vice president of business services at Florida State College at Jacksonville, has received the 2020 Distinguished Business Officer Award for his outstanding achievements to higher education and to NACUBO over an extended period of time. He has worked within the Florida State College system since 1989, and in his current role led the Jacksonville campus through external and internal challenges while it implemented a new ERP, reorganized units, centralized services, and increased institutional growth. Under his guidance, the university’s human resources, information technology, and financial aid departments also have been enhanced. A longtime volunteer to higher education, Little twice served on the NACUBO board and is a former president of SACUBO.

“Mr. Little is known for being a consummate professional with a strong moral compass,” his colleagues John Wall, Marie Gnage, Jana Kooi, and Linda Herlocker said. “He remains deeply committed to the underlying principles of integrity and efficiency. His sense of humor and quick wit are well known among friends and colleagues and round out the wide range of qualities that allow him to be a valued member of his personal and professional community.”



Bob Brown, University of North Texas

Bob Brown is the senior vice president for finance and administration at the University of North Texas, his alma mater. He has been a chief business officer for more than 30 years and currently oversees his university’s budget and finance area as well as safety and risk management, facilities and local construction, police, parking and transportation, information technology, and policy development. Brown has a long record of service and leadership to NACUBO, regional affiliate SACUBO, and numerous other associations.  

Michael Unebasami, University of Hawaii Community College System

Michael T. Unebasami is the associate vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Hawaii Community College System. Unebasami’s many accomplishments include overseeing nearly $800 million of capital improvements, growing the system’s operating budget from $90.8 million to $248 million, and introducing a popular electronic tenure and promotion process. He is a past NACUBO board member, chair of the NACUBO Two-Year College Constituent Committee, and a past board president of regional affiliate WACUBO, among many other volunteer efforts.



Gerald Whittington

Gerald O. Whittington, Elon University

Gerald is the senior vice president, business, technology, and finance at Elon University (NC), where in more than 26 years with the institution, he has directed growth in the annual operating budget from $38 million to more than $260 million; the endowment from $18 million to $257 million; the campus plant from 690,000 square feet of space to more than 3 million square feet; and the total student enrollment from 3,200 to nearly 7,000. Whittington mentors new chief business officers and has served on the NACUBO Comprehensive and Doctoral Institutions Council, among other volunteer efforts.


Morgan Olsen, Arizona State University

Morgan is the executive vice president, treasurer, and chief financial officer at Arizona State University where he oversees the finances and administration of a $3 billion enterprise. Olsen joined the institution in 2008 and successfully navigated a sharp decrease in state funding amid enrollment increases by merging and reorganizing schools and departments. A past NACUBO board chair, Olsen also has a long record of service to the association and regional affiliates WACUBO and CACUBO.



Stephen P. Hannabury, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Stephen is the executive vice president of Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, received NACUBO’s most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Business Officer Award, for his outstanding contributions to business and financial management in higher education. In 1999, Hannabury was the fourth employee hired at Olin, where he built its financial, administrative, and operational systems and oversaw the purchase and construction of the campus. He has continued to make impressive contributions there and to the higher education industry ever since.


Jairy C. Hunter Jr. - Charleston Southern University
Joanne Yestramski - University of Massachusetts Lowell


John D. Patterson - Pittsburg State University


Edward M. DesPlas - Dallas County Community College District
Robert Huth - Stetson University


Fred A. Rogers - Carleton College
Benjamin F. Quillian - California State University


Ed O. McFarlane - Reed College
James R. Tucker - Drexel University


Richard K. Smith - Earlham College
Karen Van Derhoof - County College of Morris


Natalie "Nikki" Krawitz - University of Missouri System

This award is supported in part by a generous sponsorship from Huron Consulting.

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Kimberlee Berry, CAE

Director, Membership Engagement