For Immediate Release: July 13, 2015
Contact: Renée Rybak Lang, 703.740.4841,

NASBE Honors Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell as ‘Friend of Education’

Alexandria, Va. — The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will honor Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids, Michigan, with its annual Friend of Education Award that recognizes individuals who have made enduring contributions to education. Recognized by the Michigan State Board of Education as a “mayor for all people,” Heartwell fought hard to improve opportunities for youth and promote sustainability, tenants of this national award.

The Michigan Board of Education unanimously voted to approve Mayor Heartwell as their nominee for the award. In their nomination they described him as “a man dedicated to social justice, equity, and driving systemic change to improve the quality of life for children, youth, and families through education, housing, employment, climate policy, and sustainability practices.”

Mayor Heartwell has received national praise for his 100 Campaign, which works with local businesses to create jobs and ensure that the city’s youth are prepared for them. He has influenced numerous education programs and policies through his leadership and advocacy and has been widely recognized for his initiatives to preserve and protect the environment. Under his guidance, Grand Rapids has been recognized by the US Chamber of Commerce as the nation’s “Most Sustainable City” and by the United Nations as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development.”

“Mayor Heartwell is noted for his dedication and commitment,” the board wrote. “As an ordained minister, he is sensitive to the needs of others and literally uses his pulpit and the pulpit of the office to advocate for good public practice and policy.”

A graduate of Albion College, Mayor Heartwell was appointed as a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Elected three times, he is tied with his predecessor as Grand Rapids’s longest serving mayor.

“Public education remains primarily a state and local responsibility,” said NASBE Executive Director Kristen Amundson. “Local leaders like Mayor Heartwell are essential to preserving educational opportunities for all children.”

The 2015 Friend of Education Award 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