Women’s Leadership Award

The Women’s Leadership Award acknowledges an exceptional woman who exemplifies leadership in her profession and her community, with Emily Couric herself receiving the first honor in 2001.

The Emily Couric Leadership Forum recognizes the recipient of its Women’s Leadership Award and the student winner of its Emily Couric Leadership Scholarship at its annual spring luncheon. The beneficiary of the Women’s Leadership Award offers the keynote address and presents the Emily Couric Leadership Scholarship to an outstanding female high school senior selected for demonstrated leadership in her school and community.

The 2017 Women’s Leadership Award Winner


Val AckermanFrom being a dominant player on the basketball court at the University of Virginia to serving as Commissioner of the Big East Conference, Val Ackerman has risen to the pinnacle at every level of sports. A natural leader who exemplifies the perfect balance of business savvy and sports innovation, Ackerman remains a steadfast champion for women’s sports.

At the University of Virginia, she was one of the school’s first female athletes to receive an athletic scholarship, five years after the passage of Title IX. She was a starter for the Cavaliers’ basketball team for four years, captain for three, and was twice named Academic All-American. She was also the school’s first women’s basketball player to score 1,000 points.

Ackerman earned a law degree from UCLA and served as special assistant to National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner David Stern. She later became Vice-President of Business Affairs for the NBA. She was named the first President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1996. She served as president of USA Basketball from 2005-08 and spent eight years as the U.S. representative to the International Basketball Federation.

Today, Ackerman leads the Big East Conference as Commissioner of ten universities. Leveraging her well-honed business acumen, she has repositioned a once in-flux organization into a national powerhouse.

In 2016, she was presented with the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Billie Jean King Contribution Award. Her legacy of work in sports, business and academia has fostered and empowered women and girls to pursue sports, not just as players on the field, but also as leaders in business and beyond..

Previous Winners

2017 – Val Ackerman
2016 – Nikki Giovanni
2015 – Dr. Sylvia Earle
2014 – Tina Brown
2013 – Senator OIympia Snowe
2012 – Maureen Orth
2011 – Melanne Verveer
2010 – Anna Quindlen
2009 – Kimberly Dozier
2008 – Erin Gruwell
2007 – Lesley Visser
2006 – Donna Brazile
2005 – Caroline Kennedy
2004 – Sandra Day O’Connor
2003 – Rita Dove
2002 – Katie Couric
2001 – Emily Couric