College of Education > News and Publications > 2017: 04-06 news > National School Boards Association head to speak at commencement

National School Boards Association head to speak at commencement

Thomas J. Gentzel, the executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), is the speaker for the College of Education's spring commencement ceremony, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA -- Thomas J. Gentzel, the executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), is the speaker for the College of Education's spring commencement ceremony, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus.

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), spring 2017 commencement speakerGentzel is an unabashed advocate for public education and the community leadership essential to its success. He has worked on behalf of, and advocated for, school boards and effective local governance for more than 35 years.

In his leadership role at NSBA, he heads a staff of nearly 80 people and serves a membership comprising state associations of school boards and their more than 13,000-member school districts. Gentzel is the primary spokesperson for NSBA, represents its interests in various forums, and is a frequent presenter at conferences and events across the country. He joined NSBA in 2012, becoming the organization’s sixth chief executive since it was founded in 1940.

Prior to NSBA, Gentzel served as executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) for 11 years. His career at PSBA started in 1980 as a lobbyist and, five years later, he was named head of the association’s Office of Governmental and Member Relations, a position he held for more than 16 years. He became PSBA’s CEO in 2001, directing a staff of 150 people who provided publications, conferences and seminars, as well as insurance programs, management and legal assistance, and advocacy services for local school officials.

Gentzel represents NSBA on the Strategic Council of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P-21), and on the board of the Learning First Alliance, a coalition consisting of 13 of the nation’s leading education organizations, serving as the group’s 2016-17 chair.

Gentzel is a former chair of the Organization of State Association Executive Directors and previously served as an officer for the National School Public Relations Association and as a member of the Outreach Advisory Board for The Pennsylvania State University. He was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge and reappointed twice by Gov. Edward Rendell to the Pennsylvania State Advisory Panel on Special Education.

In 2009, he was named by the governor to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Council. He previously chaired the Pennsylvania Coalition for Public Education and was founder and coordinator of the Alliance for a School Aid Partnership. He was the 2014 recipient of the Edward Donley Award by the Education Policy and Leadership Center.

Gentzel received a bachelor of science degree in community development and a master of public administration degree from Penn State.

By Annemarie Mountz (April 2017)