MEDIA RELEASE: Maine State Board of Education Chairman Wilson G. Hess Receives National Public Service Award

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) today announced that Maine State Board of Education Chairman Wilson G. Hess is one of three  national recipients of NASBE’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award. This national award honors current and former state board members who have made exceptional contributions to education. It is given to three outstanding leaders each year and is the highest award NASBE can bestow on a state board of education member.

Wilson G. Hess is chairman of the Maine State Board of Education. A member of the board’s Legislative Action Committee, he excels in building relationships with local, regional, and state legislators. Hess has been particularly instrumental in ushering in policies on higher education, career and technical education, school construction, and expanded internet access.

“He is a tireless educator who does not sit on the sidelines,” said board colleague Fern Desjardins, who nominated Hess. “Wilson was in constant contact with the Department of Education and other legislators this year on CTE matters and expanding broadband access to rural communities. Both initiatives received boosts in funding as a result of his efforts.”

Another board member, John Bird, notes of Wilson: “He enables me to be more effective [as a board member]. He understands the politics of education and the framework of education in Maine. He attends to details while focusing on a broader vision to make something better happen.”

Hess worked over 40 years in higher education, including more than 20 years as college president in private and two- and four-year public institutions. As president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent, Wilson instituted a series of successful online degrees and the state’s largest dual enrollment early college program. He is involved in several advisory councils, boards, and committees in higher education and countless other business, entrepreneurial, economic, and development initiatives. An active member of NASBE, Hess has served on the editorial advisory board since 2016.

“The 2020 Distinguished Service Award winners represent the very best in citizen leadership in America,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “State boards of education remain a steadfast bastion of nonpartisan discourse and policymaking at its very best, and this year’s distinguished service awardees represent all that is good about that process. Strong proponents of stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, and a firm focus on equity are but a few of their stellar traits. Hats off to our 2020 Distinguished Service Awardees!”

Other award recipients were Dr. John Kelly, vice chair and previous chair of the Mississippi State Board of Education and Maria Gutierrez, the longest-serving member of the Guam Education Board.

The 2020 Distinguished Service Awards will be presented October 21 at NASBE’s virtual annual conference. Learn more about the conference.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.