Elon’s long-serving senior vice president for business, finance and technology has received NACUBO’s 2018 Distinguished Business Officer Award, the group’s highest honor.
Gerald O. Whittington, who has led Elon University’s business, finance and technology operations for the past 26 years, has been honored with the 2018 Distinguished Business Officer Award by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The organization’s most prestigious award recognizes Whittington’s outstanding contributions to business and financial management in higher education. It was presented July 22 at the group’s annual meeting in Long Beach, California.
In a career that spans more than four decades, Whittington has built a reputation as a wise, innovative and ethical professional. He has been one of the chief architects in Elon University’s rise to national prominence, managing growth of the institution’s annual operating budget from $38 million to more than $260 million and building the endowment from $18 million to more than $257 million. During his tenure, Elon’s enrollment has more than doubled to 6,800 while the size of campus facilities has more than quadrupled.
“We are so proud that Gerald Whittington has received this national recognition from NACUBO, and now everyone knows what we have known for decades,” said Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book. “Gerald is a unique individual, with a brilliant financial mind, a creative interest that spans the operations of the entire university, and an overriding passion for the success of students. Elon would not be what it is today without the superb work of our good friend and colleague, Gerald.”
This year’s NACUBO meeting was focused on how colleges and universities can creatively evolve while remaining anchored in mission. NACUBO President and CEO John Walda said the group is proud to honor professionals who are “clear examples of higher education’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement.”
Whittington’s portfolio of responsibilities includes business, financial operations and internal audit; facilities construction, management and sustainability; administrative and auxiliary services; technology; human resources; and campus safety and police. He has conceived and led financial strategies that fueled four successive Elon strategic plans, moving the university to the upper echelon of college rankings while maintaining a best-value tuition position and an enviable record of operational efficiency.
“Gerald is among the best I have come across, regardless of industry,” said Kerrii Anderson, former chair of Elon’s board of trustees and former chief executive officer of Wendy’s International. “His character and integrity are unparalleled. His vision and creativity have helped Elon University transform itself.”
In addition to his work with President Book, Whittington has served with presidents J. Fred Young and Leo M. Lambert, as well as provosts Gerald L. Francis and Steven D. House. “The strong and collaborative partnerships between Gerald and three presidents and two long-serving provosts during his 26 years at Elon is unequalled in higher education,” Lambert said. “A long list of students, staff and faculty spanning generations has been fortunate to benefit from the professionalism, character and tutelage of Gerald Whittington. I cannot think of another CFO more worthy of celebration.”
A. Hope Williams, president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, said Whittington’s NACUBO honor is well deserved. “Gerald is deeply respected as a colleague in private and public higher education in North Carolina and across the country,” Williams said. “His leadership and accomplishments at Elon are renowned and the support and mentoring he provides to his peers is greatly valued.”
Whittington has provided extensive service and leadership for NACUBO, serving as a mentor for new college business officers, serving two terms on the Comprehensive and Doctoral Institutions Council, and serving in multiple roles as program reviewer, convener and presenter at annual meetings.
He has also served on committees of the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers, and has participated in more than 20 on-campus finance reviews for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accrediting organization. He has been a SACS consultant in developing new accreditation criteria and served as a special finance reader for institutions with financial distress.
Whittington began work at Elon in 1992 after serving seven years as vice president for business and finance at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. He previously served at the University of Virginia as university bursar and the director of budget and finance for the Division of Continuing Education; as business manager for the Physical Plant Department at Duke University; and in positions at the graduate school and auxiliary enterprises at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
NACUBO created the Distinguished Business Officer Award in 1985. Whittington is the first private university business officer from North Carolina to receive the award. Honored along with Whittington this year with the Distinguished Business Officer Award was Morgan R. Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer at Arizona State University.
Founded in 1962, NACUBO is a nonprofit professional organization representing chief administrative and financial officers at more than 1,900 colleges and universities across the country. NACUBO works to advance the economic vitality, business practices and support of higher education institutions in pursuit of their missions. For more information, visit www.nacubo.org.