Phi Theta Kappa CEO Receives International Leadership Award

Dr. Risley receives his award at the Innovations Conference.

Chandler, Arizona – Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, received the 2015 John E. Roueche & Terry O’Banion International Leadership Award at the League for Innovation in the Community College’s Innovations conference in Boston, Massachusetts, March 8. The award is presented to outstanding individuals whose accomplishments and professional contributions to higher education and the community college field are recognized as motivational, inspirational and transformational.

Gerardo de los Santos, President and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College, commended Risley for his outstanding work on behalf of community college students. “The growth of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society under Dr. Risley’s leadership has been extraordinary. We commend him for his dedication to the development of student leadership, service and academic excellence.”

“I am deeply honored to have the work of Phi Theta Kappa recognized by the League and legends in the community college field John Roueche and Terry O’Banion,” Risley said. “Our achievements were made possible by the giants on whose shoulders we now stand – Margaret Mosal, who served Phi Theta Kappa for 50 years; Thomas M. Spencer, my college president at San Jacinto College who established five two-year colleges from the ground floor; and Shirley B. Gordon, a founder and president of Highline Community College and Phi Theta Kappa Board Chair for 20 years.”

The John E. Roueche & Terry O’Banion International Leadership Award is presented annually at the Innovations conference. Innovations is the premier event for professionals dedicated to improving organizational teaching and learning, and discovering new approaches for enhancing the community college experience.This international conference provides a forum for collaboration among academic experts and leading community college professionals, while granting participants exclusive access to the most inventive and thought-provoking programs from around the world.

During the 2015 conference, Phi Theta Kappa also hosted forum sessions on student success, including “Guaranteeing ROI: What’s in Your Student Success Wallet?” presented by Risley and Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, Phi Theta Kappa’s Chief Information Officer. A panel discussion on “Connecting Community College Students to Completion: Engagement, Commitment and Planning,” featured Phi Theta Kappa staff members Jennifer Blalock, Chief Student Success Officer, and Cassie Bryant, Executive Assistant and Special Initiatives Coordinator.

Risley is a graduate of San Jacinto College in Texas, where he was elected Phi Theta Kappa National President in 1974. He joined the Phi Theta Kappa staff headquartered in Canton, Mississippi, in 1977 as Director of Alumni Affairs and in 1985 was elected the Society’s second Executive Director since its founding in Missouri in 1918. His predecessor Margaret Mosal, a native of Canton, served the Society for 50 years. When Risley took the reins, Phi Theta Kappa had 500 chapters in 48 states, and 25,000 students were inducted annually. The operating budget for the organization was $500,000, with a staff of five.

Today, there are over 1,285 chapters in the United States, U.S. territories, and eight sovereign nations inducting more than 134,000 students annually. More than 3 million students have been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, making75 percent of those during Risley’s tenure. The Society’s annual budget now exceeds $16 million with a staff of more than 80, operating from its International Headquarters, The Center for Excellence in Jackson, Mississippi.

Risley’s vision has led to the creation of many innovative and award-winning programs, including the Leadership Development Studies Program taught in 400 colleges;, the Gates Foundation-funded, web-based platform to help all community college students plan for degree completion and transfer to senior colleges; and Competitive Edge, an innovative personal and professional development program for members. He has forged notable partnerships with USA TODAY, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Under Risley’s leadership, nearly 750 senior colleges have designated $37 million in transfer scholarships exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members, including many Ivy League schools. Under his leadership, the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation was established, which raises nearly $2 million annually and awards more than $1 million in scholarships each year.

In 2010, Risley, along with CEOs from the five leading national organizations in the community college arena – American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, National Institute for Staff and Organization Development, Center for Community College Student Engagement, and the League for Innovation, made history by collectively signing an agreement, Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action, committing to increase the number of community college students completing a degree or credential by five million by 2020. Risley conceived the development of C4 -The Community College Completion Corps – built around students helping students complete college and participated in the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges. Since then, he has presented at numerous conferences throughout the U.S, Canada, England and the Caribbean on the importance of credential and degree completion.

Risley recently served on the 21st Century National Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, which issued the landmark report Reclaiming the American Dream. He also served on the Steering Committee for the 21st Century Initiative Implementation Team in addition to serving as Co-chair and member respectively of the “Faculty Engagement” and “Leadership Development” and “Community College Completion Commitment” Implementation Teams.

Risley was named to the Mississippi Business Journal‘s inaugural class of Top 40 under 40. He served on the AACC Commission for Academic and Student Development and is the only person in community college history to be named a recipient of AACC’s Distinguished Alumnus and National Leadership Awards. Risley served two terms as Chairman of the Mississippi Humanities Council. In 2013 he was appointed to the National Advisory Board for the Center for Community College Student Engagement. Risley earned a BBA from Sam Houston State University, MBA from Millsaps College, Ph.D. from Mississippi State University and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees.

The League for Innovation in the Community College is an international organization dedicated to catalyzing the community college movement. The League hosts conferences and institutes, develops print and digital resources and leads projects and initiatives with more than 800 member colleges, 160 corporate partners and a host of other government and nonprofit agencies in a continuing effort to make a positive difference for students and communities. Information about the League and its activities is available at

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, is the largest honor society in American higher education with more than 1,285 chapters on two-year and community college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, Peru, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 134,000 students inducted annually. More information is available at

Recommended Posts