For Immediate Release: July 9, 2015
Contact: Renée Rybak Lang, 703.740.4841,

Board of Education Members Brenda Gullett, Eileen Lappin Weiser, and Gayle Manchin Receive National Public Service Awards

Alexandria, Va. — The National Association for State Boards of Education is pleased to announce that state education leaders from Arkansas, Michigan, and West Virginia have been named recipients of NASBE’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award. This national award honors state board members who have made exceptional contributions to education and is given to three outstanding education leaders each year.

Brenda Gullett has a rich background in public service and volunteer work. A seven-year member of the Arkansas State Board of Education, Gullett was active in her role as chairwoman and served as NASBE’s Director of the Southern Region from 2011-2014. Prior to her appointment to the Arkansas board, Gullett spent six years at the Jefferson County Quorum Court and as president of the Learning Disabilities Association.  She served two years in the Arkansas House of Representatives and four years in the state Senate, where she was vice chairman of the education committee. She also served as a trustee for the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Blind. “Brenda is a leader!” said Alice Mahony, who also served on the Arkansas State Board of Education. “[She] could be counted on to examine all sides of school ‘challenges’ that were presented to the board.”

Gullett owns Brenda Gullett Associates, a human relations training firm. She has been a longtime volunteer for many groups, including the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, Kids for Health, and the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas.

Eileen Lappin Weiser has worked tirelessly on behalf of education in the state of Michigan. A longtime member of the Michigan State Board, Weiser has worked extensively on projects for the improvement of academic standards and teacher preparation. “Eileen’s 13 years of public service has been characterized by uncommon enthusiasm, mastery of details, constructive networking, and relentless positive action to benefit children rather than adults and systems,” said board colleague Richard Zeile. “She has taken courageous stands and her integrity is deeply respected.” Weiser is serving a second term as a board member for the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). She has also been devoted to projects for the advancement of her community. As executive director of the McKinley Foundation, Weiser coordinated community projects to initiate a countywide family literacy campaign, aid in the implementation of a K-6 public school curriculum project, and convert an old scrapyard into a center for local nonprofit art and human service foundations. She was recognized for her work by the Detroit Free Press and has been named one of “Detroit’s Most Influential Women” and Michigan’s Arts Patron of the Year.

Weiser has participated in many state and national study groups and has served on the boards of The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, Michigan’s Attorney Discipline Board, and the Your Child coalition.

Gayle C. Manchin is president of the West Virginia Board of Education and is a former NASBE president and emeritus board member. Manchin is a longtime advocate for education and has served as a commissioner on the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service, chairwoman of the Governor’s Healthy Lifestyles Coalition and the West Virginia Citizen’s Council on Children and Families, and co-chair on the Governor’s 21st Century Jobs Cabinet and the Intellectual Infrastructure of Vision Shared. “Gayle demonstrates informed, objective and nonpartisan leadership by artfully including all stakeholders in decision making in order to ensure commitment and sustainability in the implementation of policy,” said Donna Hoylman Peduto, West Virginia Board of Education’s director of operations. Manchin has been an active volunteer and has long been involved with AmeriCorps and America’s Promise. She was also on the board of directors for Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit serving at-risk children in Washington, DC, and is an emeritus member of the Education Alliance in West Virginia. Former First Lady of West Virginia, Manchin has taught at Fairmont State University and in the Marion County Public Schools. While working at the state’s Office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts she implemented the West Virginia Partnerships to Assure Student Success initiative.

“These three Distinguished Service Award winners exemplify the leadership and commitment of state board of education members nationwide. Their service has truly made a difference for children,” said Kristen Amundson, executive director of NASBE.

The 2015 Distinguished Service Awards will be presented this October at NASBE’s national conference in Baltimore, MD. Learn more about the conference.

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at