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Honors and Awards

Professor, Former Dean Mary Ann Danowitz Receives Penn State College of Education’s 2021 Alumni Excellence Award

Mary Ann Danowitz holding Penn State College of Education's Alumni Excellence Award
Mary Ann Danowitz holding Penn State College of Education's Alumni Excellence Award

Mary Ann Danowitz, a professor of higher education and former dean of NC State’s College of Education, has received the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society’s 2021 Alumni Excellence Award. The award recognizes alumni of Penn State’s College of Education for their long-sustained excellence and contributions in their chosen profession. It’s the highest honor that the college bestows on alumni. 

Danowitz is a two-time graduate of Penn State, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a Doctor of Education in higher education.

“I am deeply grateful for the recognition because I am very aware that among the Penn State College of Education’s 51,000 graduates, there are many as qualified as I to win this award,” Danowitz said when accepting the award during a virtual ceremony held Friday, Oct. 15. “It was far from a solo effort that laid the foundation for this award.”

Among those whom Danowitz credited for the honor was Kathryn M. Moore, who served as the NC State College of Education dean from 2000 to 2009. The two first met when Danowitz was working toward her Doctor of Education in higher education at Penn State and Moore was hired as the first woman faculty member at Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education. 

Danowitz was well into her dissertation on academic freedom when Moore challenged her and supported her to follow her passions, think independently and apply new lenses to look critically at the higher education system and structures. “It was the rigor, belief and inspiration of my mentor and thesis advisor Kathryn M. Moore that enabled me to develop the skills and belief that I had the potential to make a meaningful contribution,” Danowitz said. 

Danowitz  scrapped her dissertation and started anew, ultimately completing a dissertation on men and women senior academic administrators and power. 

“It is a topic I have circled back to in many ways throughout my career,” Danowitz said. “For the past four decades, I have practiced what I have written, and I have written about what I have practiced—and always with the goal of moving higher education to be more inclusive, equitable and just.”

Danowitz began her career in student affairs and went on to hold administrative positions at the University of Denver, The Ohio State University and the College of William & Mary.

She joined NC State’s College of Education in 2012 as head of the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development. She became interim dean in 2015 before serving as dean from April 1, 2016, through Oct. 4, 2021, when she stepped aside to return to the faculty.

During Danowitz’s five-and-a-half years as dean, NC State’s College of Education experienced unprecedented growth, including increases in student enrollment, national rankings and philanthropic investments. The college also intensified its research enterprise and efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion and prepare culturally responsive educators.

“It’s hard to imagine someone who better exemplifies the Alumni Excellence Award,” said a colleague who nominated Danowitz for the award.