Innovations 2023 Opening Keynote Belle Wheelan

Opening General Session Keynote
Saturday, March 11
3:30 - 5:00 PM

Belle Wheelan

President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Keynote Address

Higher Education: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

This presentation will look at the changes in higher education that have occurred over the past 50 years, including changes in students, faculty, and academic curricula that have impacted student success, and the role of college administration and the board of trustees in ensuring that success. How accreditation standards drive and support these efforts will be the foundation of the presentation.


Dr. Belle Wheelan currently serves as President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; she is the first African American and the first woman to serve in this capacity. Her career spans over 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, Chief Student Services Officer, Campus Provost, College President, and Secretary of Education. She was the first African American and/or woman to serve in several of those roles.

Wheelan received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in Texas (1972) with a double major in psychology and sociology; her master’s degree from Louisiana State University (1974) in developmental educational psychology; and her doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin (1984) in educational administration with a special concentration in community college leadership.

Wheelan has received numerous awards and recognition, including six honorary degrees; the Distinguished Graduate Award from Trinity University (2002) and from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin (1992); Washingtonian magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, DC (2001); the AAUW Woman of Distinction Award (2002); the Suanne Davis Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s Distinguished Lecturer Award (2007); the John E. Roueche National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s International Leadership Award (2010); the AACC Leadership Award (2011); the John Hope Franklin Award from Diverse Issues in Higher Education for outstanding leadership in higher education; the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Terry O’Banion Prize in Education from the League for Innovation in the Community College; and in 2017, Central Virginia Community College named her President Emerita.

Wheelan holds and has held membership in numerous local, state, and national organizations, including Rotary International; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the American College Testing, Inc., Board of Directors; American Association of Community Colleges, Board of Directors; the Lumina Foundation for Education, Board of Directors; the President’s Round Table of the National Council on Black American Affairs; the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, Board of Directors; Excelencia in Education, Board of Directors; National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Community College Honorary Board; Next Generation Learning Challenges, Advisory Panel; Project GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning Through Self-Study); and the National Student Clearinghouse, Board of Directors.

Wheelan attributes her success to hard work, endurance, tenacity, and being in the right place at the right time. She recognizes that prayer and support from family and friends make anything possible. Wheelan is the mother of an adult son named Reginald.

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