David L. Warren, Ph.D., Accepts 2019 Henry Paley Memorial Award from National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

February 06, 2019

The Henry Paley Memorial Award recognizes an individual who embodies a spirit of unfailing service toward the students and faculty of independent colleges and universities. The recipient of this reward has set an example for all who would seek to advance educational opportunity in the United States. Henry Paley was president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York from 1975 until his untimely death in 1984.  He possessed a larger than life personality and was an important force in support of private, nonprofit colleges and universities in New York

Warren has announced his retirement effective June 30, 2019.

From growing up a product of the Manhattan Project in Richland, WA to hitchhiking across the country in hopes of writing the great American novel; from crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge with civil rights leaders in 1965 to establishing new programs in legal aid, mental health, day care and community co-ops while executive director of Dwight Hall at Yale University; and from living in the dormitories as the new president of Ohio Wesleyan University to presiding for 25 years as the president of NAICU, Warren’s indefatigable optimism, unwavering faith in the human spirit, and strong sense of purpose, have been guiding forces.

Warren began his tenure as NAICU president in 1993, after nearly a decade as president of Ohio Wesleyan. A tireless crusader for America’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities, Warren, just the third president in NAICU’s history, is regarded as one of the most persuasive and influential voices for higher education within Washington, DC. Throughout Warren’s life, and through his career in local politics and higher education, he also saw firsthand the power and life-changing benefits of education. He saw that education could be an equalizer. According to OWU, the Ohio Wesleyan Magazine, Warren saw that “the most basic difference between the haves and have-nots is education.”

Warren, who has been awarded over two dozen honorary degrees, has been cited for his efforts “to restore proposed cuts in federal student aid, gain tax relief for college students and their families, and reduce intrusive and burdensome federal regulations of colleges” (Middlebury College). Warren has also been described as “one of the most respected and effective leaders in American higher education” (Kentucky Wesleyan College) and his achievements epitomize higher education’s central role in personal empowerment and the public interest (The Sage Colleges).

Warren’s time at NAICU has been marked by several significant policy achievements that have benefited colleges and universities, students and families, and communities around the country. Some examples include:
  • Spearheading the Student Aid Alliance, an ongoing campaign of 86 higher education associations focused on expanding student aid. Since its launch, federal spending on student aid has increased significantly, and the Pell Grant maximum award has increased from $2,340 to $6,195. Today, student aid enjoys strong bi-partisan support.
  • Advocating for tax benefits, including 529 Plans, tuition credits and deductions, and deductibility for student loans, which have provided billions of dollars in tax benefits to help students and families afford a college education.
  • Co-chairing the National Campus Voter Registration Project which, in each presidential and congressional election since 1996, has engaged the nation’s campuses in the political and electoral process. Creating CampusCares, an initiative to gain national recognition for the community service and civic engagement contributions by America’s colleges and universities.
  • Creating the University & College Accountability Network (UCAN), a major national effort to enhance consumer access to comparative information on colleges and universities.
  • Organizing a successful nationwide movement to eliminate unprecedented and intrusive regulatory language from Part IV of the Higher Education Act of 1992 (SPRE).
Taking a leadership role in the passage of the post 9/11 GI Bill, with its provisions for the participation of independent higher education through the Yellow Ribbon Program, which promotes college choice for veterans by providing supplemental matching funds to institutions that cover additional tuition costs for students. The bill has served as a model for how the federal government can promote greater affordability for students by partnering with colleges.

As president of Ohio Wesleyan he achieved significant growth and innovation in many key areas. This included increases in applications and retention, annual giving, faculty compensation, facility construction and renovation, and upgrades to dormitories, classrooms and laboratories. However, one of his lasting, and signature, initiatives was launching the National Colloquium, a major curricular/co-curricular innovation that annually explores an issue of national and international significance from multiple educational angles. To this day, the Colloquium forges links between liberal arts learning and the lifelong civic art of informed, involved citizenship.

Civic engagement and participation have been hallmarks of Warren’s career. In the 1960s, he organized and directed an Experimental College for Yale students and residents of New Haven. In the 1970s, he served on New Haven’s Board of Alders and the city’s Planning Commission. In the 1980s, Warren renovated a dorm on the Ohio Wesleyan campus for the purpose of intergenerational living and learning, starting with 62 apartments for students and retirees. Continuing through today, Warren remains the guiding force in helping colleges and universities register their students to vote through the National Campus Voter Registration project, which contributed to the increased student engagement and turnout for the past two decades.

However, one of his longest-lasting and most significant endeavors was creating the Summer Project initiative while executive director of Dwight Hall at Yale. The Summer Project, now over 50 years old, links Yale students and community organizations in innovative partnerships serving the surrounding communities.

Whether advocating and providing avenues for students and communities to embrace learning, community-building, and civic awareness or living the example himself, the values, experiences, collegiality, and lifelong benefits of higher education have been cornerstones of Warren’s professional and day-to-day life. They are key reasons for his continuing optimism in the human spirit.

Warren’s additional service to higher education includes holding a variety of positions at Antioch University, including senior vice president and university provost. He also held administrative and faculty positions at Yale University.

Warren earned a B.A. in English from Washington State University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He earned master’s degrees in both divinity and urban studies from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Michigan. He was also a Fulbright Scholar in India and a Rockefeller Fellow at Yale.

From Washington State to Washington, D.C., Warren has seen the challenges facing private, nonprofit higher education up close and in-person for over 5 decades. No challenge has been too great, no hurdle too high. By developing appropriate strategies and forging coalitions to successfully implement those strategies, Warren has been a forceful, effective, and unapologetic advocate for independent higher education and the students and communities they serve.

Through it all, David Warren continues to see education as the great equalizer and remains The House Optimist. 
With more than 1,000 colleges, universities, and associations as members, NAICU serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education and reflects the diversity of private, nonprofit higher education in the United States.  Our member institutions include major research universities, church-related colleges, historically black colleges, art and design colleges, traditional liberal arts and science institutions, women’s colleges, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.

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