NCHC Founders Award Winners

The NCHC Founders Award was created in 2015, in conjunction with our organization's 50th Anniversary.

The most prestigious award bestowed by NCHC, the Founders Award serves to honor members who have been instrumental in the development and advancement of NCHC and its programs. They have continually given of their time and talents to support honors faculty and students across the country.



Dr. John & Edythe Portz

2016 Winners

accepted by Dr. Traci Doula, Associate Director of the University of Maryland Honors Program

John & Edythe PortzThe Founders Award commemorates individuals who embody the very nature of the honors experience: expecting more, conceptualizing different and exciting, impacting internal as well as community growth, and instilling a similar love for learning in those around them.

In 2016, we recognized the contributions and career of Dr. John Portz. His contributions captured the essence of his personality: big and impactful. Dr. Portz, a long-serving volunteer and leader at NCHC, provided not only expertise but understood the value that a life-time gift would provide for students long after his hands were still and his voice was silent. His gifts to NCHC were many—the office has letters from the Portzes asking how much money the organization needed—and what projects they wanted to fund! Beyond those gifts, he planned for a long-term investment in students he’d never meet, using the money he’d earned at the career he loved.

John was Bernice Braid’s mentor in NCHC – she describes him as imaginative, energetic, and an exceptional student advocate. He created such programs as Honors Semesters, Faculty Institutes, Sleeping Bag Seminars, and was the first editor of the newsletter. His wife Edythe came to the NCHC meetings and worked in Washington DC. She brought with her a professional diplomacy to the deliberations. As her husband John, she loved working with the students. It is the love and passion for students that gifted NCHC with the foundation for programs still in existence.




Dr. Bernice Braid

2015 Winner

If any one person embodies the highest values of honors education, that person is Bernice Braid, who has been a passionate innovator, sustainer, and supporter of all that is best in honors. She is a founder and presiding genius of the NCHC, setting the path not just of the organization but of honors and, to a large degree, higher education.

Dr. Braid began her distinguished academic career at LIU Brooklyn in 1964 and started teaching honors courses in 1965, the same year as the founding of NCHC. She became the director of the LIU Honors Program in 1968, and she soon became a leader far beyond her own campus, serving as president of the Northeast Regional Honors Council in 1977-78 and as national president in 1979-80. She has served on the Board of Directors/Executive Committee a total of 23 years between 1976 and 2011, and during that time published some forty essays and books.

What everyone in the NCHC, in honors, and throughout higher education knows about Bernice is her pioneering role in experiential education and active learning. Through Honors Semesters, Faculty Institutes, City as Text™ excursions, journal articles, monographs, workshops, campus consultations, and daily infusions of her prodigious energy, she has created experiential education as a pedagogical strategy in honors and far beyond. She deserves the credit for what so many others have subsequently adopted and adapted.

Dr. Braid has served as a consultant, evaluator, or workshop leader at over sixty colleges and universities in the United States and several more in other parts of the world such as Spain, Chile, Greece, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. Students around the globe have caught fire about experiential education, cultural studies, and public service through participation in one of the more than thirty Honors Semesters she has organized, and faculty have honed their teaching skills in more than twenty-five Faculty Institutes. Any member of NCHC during the last three decades knows Bernice as the founding mother and annual organizer of City as Text™. Thousands have experienced cities with her maps, handouts, instructions, and insights as their guides, and hundreds have returned to their home campuses to adopt her learning strategies in their own programs and courses. She was practicing and teaching active learning for at least two decades before the rest of the country caught up with her, and—in this as in all things—she has kept the NCHC in the forefront of excellent education.