The William & Mary School of Education honored a local educator this week for his leadership and contributions to the field of education.
Ben Kiser, division superintendent for Gloucester County Public Schools, received the 2012 Jo Lynne DeMary Award during the School of Education’s annual Educational Leadership Alumni Breakfast Wednesday morning.
“We are very proud of what you’re doing and blessed to be working with you,” Ginnie McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education, told Kiser at the event.
Approximately 40 people attended the event, including the award’s namesake Jo Lynne DeMary. DeMary, who received her undergraduate, education specialist and doctoral degrees from William & Mary, was the first woman to serve as the Commonwealth’s state superintendent of public instruction. Other attendees at the breakfast event included faculty, students, alumni and two former DeMary Award winners, Roy Geiger and Lucia Sebastian.
“This leadership breakfast is becoming a signature event for the educational leadership program, as a way of bringing together our graduates, our colleagues from the field, our students and faculty,” said McLaughlin. “We really have enjoyed watching it come into its own.”
Kiser, who was joined at the breakfast by his wife, son and several school board members, received his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech before going on to earn his master’s degree at Virginia State University and his doctorate at the University of Virginia.
He began his career in education as a teacher in Greensville, Va. Later, he served as the assistant principal of Northumberland Middle School and then as director of vocational education in Fauquier County. He next moved to Manassas Park City Schools where he was a principal, director of secondary education and finally the associate superintendent for administrative service.
“That’s one of the things that I think we really do acknowledge, that Ben has deep roots in Virginia,” said Steve Staples, former superintendent of York Division Public Schools and current faculty member in the School of Education. “He was educated as a Virginian, and he has certainly served a career in Virginia.”
Staples, who worked with Kiser while they were both superintendents, said he always admired “the kind of fresh thought that (Kiser) brought to the room.”
“When you sat in the room with Ben, you weren’t going to get the same old stuff,” he said. “Ben looks at scenarios, he’s willing to take a risk, and there are a lot of folks that won’t do that.”
After accepting the award, Kiser said that, when he first arrived in Gloucester, he immediately became aware of the partnership between the School of Education and local school divisions.
"My respect and admiration for that partnership has grown throughout the years,” he said.
Kiser recalled his upbringing as the son of a Pentecostal preacher, saying that his mother would be in one room praying that he’d also become a preacher while he was in the next praying that he wouldn’t.
“As it turns out, in the greater wisdom of a power beyond me, I have enjoyed 38 years of public service and in a sense, through that opportunity, I’ve had a chance to get on my pulpit a few times and preach,” he said.
Reflecting on his career, Kiser said that he’s enjoyed the opportunities he’s had.
“I hope I’ve had some positive influence on individuals – children in particular – over the years, but as we’ve all heard many times, good leaders surround themselves with great people,” he said.
“They really create the successes we enjoy on a daily basis.”