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Institutional Leadership Award

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution (university, community college, hospital, local foundation or other community institution) who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development through their leadership, financial support, local investments, hiring, training or related activities.


Rita Gue

Rita Gue, President of the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, has been a significant contributor for nearly 20 years to the success of every major economic development initiative in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, a semi-rural county in the greater New Orleans metropolitan area. Under Ms. Gue’s guidance, the Foundation has supported this development through leadership, financial support, and local investments in an effort to improve the quality of life in the community.

Since the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Ms. Gue and the Meraux Foundation have worked to help the parish recover and grow. With a goal to attract businesses and residents to the community, they partnered with the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation (SBEDF) to attract retail companies, and donated land for a hospital, sheriff’s substation, nature park, and elementary school in the parish. Due in part to these efforts, St. Bernard Parish consistently ranks as one of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S.

Ms. Gue also has shown initiative in improving the creative economy through community sponsorship and projects. In one such public interest project, she directed the Foundation to transform a stretch of vacant and underused properties into an arts campus; it has acted as a catalyst for development and an increase in commerce, with more studio spaces opening alongside a number of bars, restaurants, shops and new shopping center. Ms. Gue also currently sits on the tourism commission and arts district commission. She and the Foundation have been a leading force in planning and hosting a variety of annual events, including the Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, AgMagic on the River, and the Bayou Road Balloon Festival.

A commitment to ensuring the highest quality of life and solidifying the future of the parish has led Ms. Gue to continuously support the area’s schools and students. The Foundation annually awards 50 scholarships to graduating high school seniors based on academic achievement, four based on artistic accomplishment, and six for vocational-technical school. They also partner with the local high school and community college to prepare the workforce through technical programs that focus on high-demand, fast-growing coastal restoration industries. With this support in place, Ms. Gue has assisted in forming the parish’s future and guaranteeing the next generation’s economic prosperity.

The Foundation not only funds and sponsors economic development initiatives, but also works in partnership with other development agencies to ensure their success. Ms. Gue and members of her board have served on SBEDF’s executive committee and are partners on multiple projects and initiatives, including the retail attraction, Startup St. Bernard, and Working on the Water, an organization created after the 2010 BP oil spill to support coastal businesses and improve the resiliency of the coastal economy. Through the Foundation’s role on the Greater New Orleans, Inc. Board of Directors, and as a sponsor of their Everlab conference, Ms. Gue has proven her commitment to not only regional economic development, but as well to coastal and environmental protection and restoration.

Ms. Gue and her leadership has allowed the Meraux Foundation to be active in all phases of economic development throughout St. Bernard Parish, including neighborhood revitalization, workforce development, and business retention and attraction. Her dedication to development, along with her desire to support the next generation and future economy, has helped the parish recover and thrive. The International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2019 Institutional Leadership Award to Rita Gue.


Maurice A. Jones

Maurice A. Jones is the President and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York, NY. In his commitment to improving standards of living in the U.S., particularly in marginalized communities, Maurice A. Jones has become a steadfast leader in both government and inclusive economic development. After growing up on a tobacco farm in a small Virginia town, Mr. Jones was awarded a full merit scholarship to Hampden-Sydney College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1986 as a Rhodes Scholar. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from Oxford University and a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School, and he has worked hard throughout his career to make sure others are also given opportunities to succeed.

Mr. Jones became the fourth President and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in September 2016. LISC works with urban and rural partners across the U.S. through its local offices, in order to find the best ways to improve access to economic opportunities and growth. As part of the community support it offers, LISC provides capital, programs, services and expertise for local initiatives. Since 1979, LISC has invested a total of $18.6 billion with a result of $56 billion in total development. LISC is already expanding into new markets under Mr. Jones – in May 2018, it was announced that LISC’s 35th office has found a home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Under Mr. Jones’ direction, LISC has increased focus on inclusive growth and economic development. His leadership has also led to the development of the new “Catalyzing Opportunities in America’s Neighborhoods” framework, which gathers a large network of partnerships with the goal of employing the available tools to build equity and growth. With the framework, Mr. Jones and LISC hope to assist in building and repositioning physical infrastructure, fostering robust and accessible entrepreneurial ecosystems, and developing talent through training.

Mr. Jones has proven himself to be both a gifted leader and an experienced policy expert. Directly prior to his work at LISC, he managed thirteen state agencies centered on supporting economic growth during his role as Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Jones assisted in bringing workforce development to the forefront with the creation of a workforce task force and a collaborative workforce plan that was brought to the Department of Labor. He also helped close a number of deals for the Commonwealth, including bringing Stone Brewing to Richmond, locating the global headquarters of the Corporate Executive Board in Arlington, and restoring Carnival Cruise service to Norfolk as well as Air China service to Dulles Airport.

Before this, he served in several notable positions such as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While working at HUD, the Community Development Block Grant Program and Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program reported to Mr. Jones. Prior to his time at HUD, he was the publisher of the Virginian Pilot, and in volunteer capacities he served as Chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. Mr. Jones also served at the Treasury Department during the Clinton Administration. During this time, he helped manage a then new federal program called the Community Development Financial Institutions fund, which has grown since then to be an important support to nonprofits bolstering their communities.

Mr. Jones’ wealth of experience shines through his dedicated work at LISC and will continue to be key in the organization’s work towards inclusive economic growth. In recognition of this, the International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2018 Institutional Leadership Award to Maurice A. Jones.



David Bronner, PhD

Dr. David Bronner is a dedicated advocate of economic development in the state of Alabama. For more than 40 years, he has served as CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama public pension fund, providing decades of successful leadership and ensuring economic security for the state's public workforce.

With Dr. Bronner at the helm, the fund has grown from $500 million to more than $37 billion today. The company administers pensions for more than 339,000 public employees and retirees. Through investments in the state, Retirement Systems of Alabama has created more than 250,000 full-time-equivalent jobs, $5.6 billion in total investments, and $1.1 billion in tax revenue.

Understanding the importance of attracting investment, Dr. Bronner has played a major role in the development of communities in Alabama. Dr. Bronner has led real estate development projects in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, and he has developed eight upscale hotels and conference centers that have garnered recognition from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and Successful Meetings. He also led in the creation of the celebrated 11-site, 468-hole Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which helped to increase Alabama’s tourism industry from $1.8 billion to $13 billion a year. Along with the increase in visitors and investors to Alabama, these developments have resulted in the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs and a capital investment of more than $6 million.

Dr. Bronner’s reach is not limited to business and real estate dealings; he also understands the importance of access to education and cutting-edge resources. He has shown leadership in Mobile, calling upon local leaders to invest in the future of the city by rebuilding its ailing education system. More recently, Dr. Bronner joined the City of Montgomery, Montgomery County, and local business and military leaders to form the Montgomery Cyber Connection. The project will promote economic development, research, and innovation for the entire state and connect Alabama’s universities through research collaboration, support the Air University Cyber College mission to strengthen national defense, and stimulate business development and tech startups.

A visionary leader, Dr. Bronner has been featured in BusinessWeek, Forbes Magazine, The Institutional Investor, Time, and the Wall Street Journal in recognition of his successful investment strategies, and led Retirement Systems of Alabama to be named PLANSPONSOR Magazine’s Retirement Plan Sponsor of the Year. It is clear from his work across Alabama that Dr. Bronner understands the vital role community institutions have in contributing to the economic health of the communities in which they operate. For this reason, the International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2017 Institutional Leadership Award to Dr. David Bronner.



Liang Chee Wee, PhD

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution who has significantly contributed to the region in support of economic development.

Dr. Liang Chee Wee is a passionate and dedicated advocate for education and community development. Under his leadership, Northeast Iowa Community College has flourished and was named a top-ten community college in the nation by the Aspen Institute Community College Excellence Program in 2011. Also in 2011, Dr. Wee was named a White House Champion of Change, a true testament to his commitment to affecting progress.

Dr. Wee has not only made immense contributions to the community at his institution but also to economic development in the greater Dubuque area. He understands that the most important factor in driving economic growth in Dubuque is to provide support to existing local business. Dr. Wee has also ensured that Northern Iowa Community College’s involvement with Opportunity Dubuque, a program launched in 2012 that aims to gain a better understanding of the needs of businesses, has greatly benefited economic development in the community. Through roundtables and interviews conducted by the college, the City of Dubuque learned that managers were in need of skilled workers for the manufacturing industry, and enacted a job training program that provided students with the skills they needed to fill high-demand jobs.

Dr. Wee does not neglect students who face unique challenges. Re-engage Dubuque, a partnership between the Dubuque Community School District, Northeast Iowa Community College, and Project HOPE that was launched in 2012, provides students who have recently dropped out of high school with the resources to connect to alternative education options and post-secondary education. With Dr. Wee the leading the charge, the program has engaged over 308 participants, 95 of whom have either gone on to complete high school or earn a high school equivalency diploma.

Dr. Wee also serves as the Advisory Board Chair for StartUp Dubuque, a program that promotes an entrepreneurial environment by providing assistance for local start-up companies. An early supporter of the program, Dr. Wee has committed resources from the college’s Small Business Development Center. In 2015, the program provided assistance to 200 entrepreneurs and helped establish 20 new businesses that went on to raise $3.5 million in new capital.

From his work in Dubuque, it is clear that Dr. Wee keenly understands the key role a community college can play in improving the economic landscape of a community. For this reason, the International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2016 Institutional Leadership Award to Dr. Liang Chee Wee.



Todd Schwarz, PhD

Todd Schwarz has been a distinguished leader in Twin Falls, Idaho for over 25 years. His ability to forge partnerships between higher education, occupational training programs and the business industry is unrivaled. At College of Southern Idaho (CSI), Dr. Schwarz has helped transform the economic development landscape of the region. Today, as the college’s executive vice president & chief academic officer, Dr. Schwarz promotes career and technical growth at the highest level.

Dr. Schwarz began his career at CSI, quickly making a remarkable impression. In 2000, Dr. Schwarz successfully recruited Dell to Twin Falls by determining workforce training needs and creating a technical program tailored to over 200 positions at Dell’s support center. In 2002, this curriculum, the PC Prep Program, won the “Idaho Division of Professional-Technical Education award for Outstanding Short-Term Training Program.” Dr. Schwarz then served as chair of both the Trade and Industry Department and the Information Technology Department before he was appointed instructional dean for all technical programs at CSI.

The well-tailored training programs created by Dr. Schwarz resulted in substantial economic development funding for the region, gaining over $20 million in grants. By expanding programs and utilizing the talent housed in CSI, Dr. Schwarz cultivated a strong workforce in Idaho and made the region a relevant site for large scale companies.

One of his many accomplishments came in 2012, when Dr. Schwarz met with Chobani’s plant manager to discuss a potential new site in Idaho. He served as a connection to Idaho’s corporate leaders and an expert in addressing workforce needs for the company. Within 11 months, Chobani built their $450 million “second home” in Twin Falls.

Dr. Schwarz continues to crafts training programs that fit the growth and needs of the rural community and its students. He designed a curriculum that provides students with the hands-on training necessary to work in the renewable energy field that is now part of CSI’s Renewable Energy Training Center. He also partnered with the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization in the statewide Sustainable Energy Conference, Powering Idaho’s Future to address opportunities for Idaho’s renewable energy sector.

Dr. Schwarz adeptly responds to the changing needs of his community. His dedication to addressing workforce development priorities is instrumental in attracting major companies in Idaho. For this, the International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2015 Institutional Leadership Award to Dr. Todd Schwarz.

Diane Kaplan

Rasmuson Foundation
Anchorage, AK

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development.

For nearly twenty years, Diane Kaplan has been involved with one of the largest private foundations in the Pacific Northwest. As President and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation, Ms. Kaplan has worked to promote a better life for all Alaskans while increasing the foundation’s assets fifty-fold.

Under Ms. Kaplan’s guidance, the Rasmuson Foundation has consistently supported its community by making significant contributions to the economic development efforts of Anchorage, mainly through social investments. Ms. Kaplan has helped direct the funding to be utilized to improve the quality of life in the community by contributing to health and human services, arts, culture, recreation, community development, and education projects. To this end, the foundation has paid out over $256 million in charitable contributions since its creation in 1995.

Continued support of nonprofits by entities such as the Rasmuson Foundation is crucial for the sustained vitality of Alaska’s workforce. The percentage of Alaska’s workforce employed by nonprofits is higher than the rest of the country and continues to grow, from 7% of the total workforce in 2004 to over 10% in 2009. Additionally, large nonprofits are among the biggest overall employers in the state, and by 2009, twenty-two of the top 100 employers were nonprofits. During the Great Recession, federal funding cuts and overall economic decline led to a dramatic decrease in organizational financing options, which could have forced nonprofits across the state to cut jobs. Fortunately, Ms. Kaplan and the Rasmuson Foundation adapted quickly. They became more involved in public policy, fighting for change and implementing programs such as the Pick.Click.Give. campaign, which allows Alaskans to donate a percentage of their Permanent Fund Dividend, Alaskan citizens’ share of oil revenue, directly to nonprofits. That program has generated more than $10 million in charitable contributions to date.

Ms. Kaplan has ensured that the Rasmuson Foundation takes into consideration the many unique aspects of Alaska regarding donor funding. Because of its geographic location, many national funders are unfamiliar with Alaska’s nonprofits and as a result, choose to give money elsewhere. To combat this unfamiliarity, the Rasmuson Foundation founded the Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers. The program gives funders tours of Alaska and has generated over $60 million in foundation money from the rest of the country. The state also has one of the greatest concentrations of native peoples in the United States. In order to serve that population, the Rasmuson Foundation seeks to collaborate with innovative, Alaska Native-led health care service providers and actively encourages applicants from Native villages and Tribes to seek Foundation grant awards.

Ms. Kaplan focuses her foundation’s giving where it is needed most, including native populations, cultural organizations, and small businesses. Her dedication to the Rasmuson Foundation, the state of Alaska, and the economic prosperity of its people is unmatched. Because of these reasons, International Economic Development Council is proud to present Diane Kaplan with the 2014 Institutional Leadership Award.

Mary Sue Coleman, PhD

President Emerita
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development.

As President of the University of Michigan for more than a decade, Mary Sue Coleman has been integral to the creation of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. The contributions she has made to student life, economic vitality, and innovation will undoubtedly continue to impact the university and community for generations to come.

Faced with the immense challenge of a declining economy, Dr. Coleman recognized that Ann Arbor possessed many of the tools to necessarily create change. This realization was the impetus to the creation of Ann Arbor SPARK in 2007. With the university acting as the primary supporter of the organization, SPARK has become a dynamic and successful economic development organization. The organization’s many successes include $1.4 billion in new investments to the area, nearly 12,000 jobs created, and assistance to over 400 innovative startup companies.

Dr. Coleman’s commitment to the region goes beyond her efforts with Ann Arbor SPARK. By partnering with Wayne State University and Michigan State University, she helped create a research partnership that contributes $15.5 billion annually in economic impact to the state. Her impressive efforts to transform the university’s research into future economic development drew the attention of the United States Commerce Department in 2010, which selected the University of Michigan as one of four locations for an innovation forum that discussed the role of universities in national economic development.

In addition to research, Dr. Coleman is an enthusiastic supporter of entrepreneurship. In 2011, the University established the Venture Accelerator and the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS), which use university resources to assist the growth of young businesses. Through these efforts, the University of Michigan ranks in the top 10 U.S. universities for startup production rate.

Due to the success of Ann Arbor SPARK and the University’s research expansion, Dr. Coleman was chosen as one of six university presidents by President Obama to launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. This national effort brings together universities, industries, and the federal government to promote American innovation and economic prosperity. Also impressed by Dr. Coleman’s efforts, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke named her as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2010.

After more than a decade at the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman has set the bar nationwide for what university presidents can do to increase economic vitality in a region. Her ability to see the big picture and embrace new aspects of a modern economy makes Dr. Coleman a visionary leader. For this reason, International Economic Development Council is honored to present the 2013 Institutional Leadership Award to Dr. Mary Sue Coleman.

Carl Edwards

Presbyterian Health Foundation
Oklahoma City, OK

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development through leadership, financial support, local investments, hiring, training, or related activities.

Oklahoma City is home to one of the most flourishing bioscience industry clusters in the country. At the forefront of the momentum is the Presbyterian Health Foundation, led by chairman of the board, Carl Edwards. Mr. Edwards joined the board in 1992 and became chairman in 2004.

As Oklahoma City leaders began to see bioscience emerging as an economic catalyst beyond medical research, the Presbyterian Health Foundation and Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority partnered to block enough ground near the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority to create a research park that would be the impetus to a burgeoning bioscience sector. Mr. Edwards led the board in the allocation of capital resources and structuring a profitable economic framework. His innate ability to navigate complex real estate transactions and physical plans was indispensible to the early prosperity of the research park.

While the research park was quickly filling its space with bioscience labs and office space for support entities with great success, Mr. Edwards identified a missing link existed that would separate the Oklahoma City industry from its peers. The creation of a manufacturing facility that produces proteins and molecules for testing achieved that goal. Cytovance Biologics, LLC allows tenants to test drugs in their initial stages in Oklahoma, keeping important development dollars in the state. The Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park has grown to become the most sizable of its kind in the United States, housing 36 biomedical companies and 27 other tenants.

Mr. Edwards also leant his expertise to develop and launch the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OKBio), an organization dedicated to promote growth of the bioscience industry through partnership, education, outreach, networking, policy development, and publicity. He also serves as a partner of Price Edwards & Company, a commercial real estate service company; he is chairman of the Oklahoma Metropolitan Area Public Schools Trust; and is chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

Carl Edwards has been essential to the development of one of the most successful bioscience industries in the country. The Presbyterian Health Foundation has flourished, despite the challenges inherent in this complicated sector. For this reason, the International Economic Development Council is honored to bestow the 2012 Institutional Leadership Award upon Carl Edwards.

John D. Welty, PhD

California State University - Fresno

The Institutional Leadership Award recognizes a leader of a community institution (university, community college, hospital, local foundation or other community institution) who has made significant contributions to the community in support of economic development through their leadership, financial support, local investments, hiring, training or related activities.

In a region of California that is undergoing dynamic changes in population, culture, and economics, Dr. John Welty, President of California State University, Fresno, has mobilized the community to institute positive change that has had a profound impact on the quality of life of the surrounding area.

Fresno State is located in the San Joaquin Valley, an area that has long suffered from high unemployment and poverty levels. With these factors in mind, Dr. Welty has positioned the university to become one of the nation’s leading community-engaged universities.

In an effort to encourage students to become invested in the surrounding community, Dr. Welty introduced service learning into the curriculum and expanded community service opportunities. Fresno State students, faculty, and staff provided a combined 1.16 million hours of service, with an estimated economic impact of $28 million.

Dr. Welty has worked tirelessly throughout his tenure to position the university as a resource for the surrounding area. To do this, he established the Office of Community and Economic Development, which manages two major programs. The first, The Regional Jobs Initiative, focuses its efforts on cluster-based economic development. In a five-year period from 2003-2008, 17,000 net new jobs were attributed to the initiative and its network of public/private partners. The second program, The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, was created by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005 to address the obstacles facing the area. The Office of Community and Economic Development was established as the Secretariat of the program – responsible for operating, administering, and implementing the Strategic Action Proposal. The Partnership has been instrumental in effecting positive change throughout the region.

Dr. Welty also sits on the Executive Board of the Fresno Business Council, a group established in 2003 to respond to escalating crime and decreasing economic and social indicators in the city. Since its inception, the council has created more than 1,000 jobs and established the Central Valley Business Incubator. Dr. Welty has embraced the incubator as a Fresno State initiative and provided the resources necessary for its success.

Through Dr. Welty’s Leadership and a generous gift from Dr. William Lyles and the Lyles Family Foundation, the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was founded in 2003. The center has a successful track record of inspiring students, faculty, alumni and community leaders to act on ideas that build a prosperous future and acts as a bridge for the campus and community, linking resources of both to achieve success in the marketplace.

Dr. John Welty has strived, throughout his tenure, to create a healthy environment for university and community collaboration. By understanding the correlation between Fresno State and the wellbeing of the community, he has undeniably improved the quality of life throughout the region. For this reason, the International Economic Development Council is honored to bestow upon Dr. John Welty, the 2011 Institutional Leadership Award.