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Press Release

Gadsden State professor honored as 2024 Higher Educator of the Year

Alabama native to be sixth person awarded distinction 
Published: May 3, 2024

WASHINGTON – The National Education Association today announced that Dr. Susan Williams Brown, a math instructor at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala., has been named as the 2024 Higher Educator of the Year.  

The honor, sponsored by the NEA Foundation, recognizes a postsecondary education professional who continuously engages in outstanding student-centered professional practice, exemplary state- or local labor-based advocacy, and robust local participation. It is among the association’s highest honors celebrating its members. 

“This recognition is not just a testament to my efforts,” said Williams Brown, “but a celebration of the collective dedication of educators across the nation, including my home state of Alabama, who tirelessly strive for excellence in education at all levels.” 

 In her 40+ years of educating, Williams Brown has been committed to the success and well-being of her students.  

At Gadsden State, Williams Brown — chair of the math division during the COVID pandemic — led her instructors through the transition to an online teaching method that made sure students were supported. The math instructor also centers her community, whether it be through arranging opportunities for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama employees or advocating for community college tenured staff through policy. Most recently, Williams Brown was elected president of the Alabama Education Association and is currently fighting for better pay for educators. 

“Our advocacy efforts champion the importance of higher education funding and policy reforms by securing vital resources and support for institutions and educators alike,” said William -Brown. “By amplifying the voices of educators and students, we make significant strides in shaping the future of higher education in Alabama.” 

“Dr. Williams Brown embodies the ideals of NEA and what it means to be an educator, role model, and leader,” said Becky Pringle, NEA president. “She is dedicated to supporting her students and being a powerful voice for change on our campuses, in our classrooms and beyond.” 

The recognition of Higher Educator of the Year is decided annually by representatives of the NEA’s National Council for Higher Education, a group composed of NEA members working in or retired from higher education across the country. The committee reviewed numerous applications, which all detailed candidates’ impressive contributions to their students, schools, unions, and communities.  

Williams Brown will be honored at the 2024 NEA Representative Assembly this July in Philadelphia. She is just the sixth to be awarded the honor, a group which includes the late Julius Thomas, a former counselor at California’s Rio Hondo College. 


Follow NEA on Twitter at @NEAmedia 


 The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at


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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.