PRESS RELEASE: Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education winners announced

Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Close-up of the McGraw Prize trophy sculpture

Debra Duardo, David Wilson, and Barbara Oakley selected for outstanding achievement in pre-K–12, higher education, and lifelong learning.

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PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 27, 2023) — The 2023 winners of the prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education were announced today by the McGraw Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Debra Duardo, David Wilson and Barbara Oakley — three leaders in the field doing groundbreaking work in pre-K–12 classrooms, on university campuses and in lifelong learning, respectively — are being recognized for their extraordinary achievements. Each winner will receive an award of $50,000 and an iconic awards sculpture at a ceremony on November 8.

This year is the first time a McGraw Prize has been awarded for lifelong learning, a recognition of our society’s changing need to help learners of all ages grow in and out of the classroom.

“The McGraw Prize was established in 1988 to honor my father’s commitment to education and literacy and today continues to shine a spotlight on innovative and outstanding educators who empower our students and enhance our society,” said Harold McGraw III, former Chairman, CEO and President of The McGraw-Hill Companies.  “This year’s winners demonstrated exceptional achievement over an extended period of time and in the face of unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid crisis. Their dedication to student success is both exceptional and inspiring.”

The 2023 winners:

  • Pre-K–12 Education Prize: Dr. Debra Duardo has made the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) the premier hub of innovation in California’s efforts to transform education through a whole-child, whole-family approach. As the superintendent of the nation’s most populous and diverse regional education agency, she has led the way in integrating resources and activities to improve student outcomes, individual and collective well-being, and organizational excellence. Key programs initiated by LACOE under Dr. Duardo’s leadership, such as the Road to Success partnership with UCLA, have served as regional and national models.
  • Higher Education Prize: Dr. David Wilson is a leader among university presidents nationwide as well as a vigorous advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their vital role in society. As a transformational president of Morgan State University, he has overseen a dramatic increase in graduation rates by revamping the university’s advising model and adopting data-driven initiatives to identify students at risk of dropping out. He is also recognized for engaging with adult learners in the Baltimore community and granting college credit for their prior learning experiences. In addition to serving on numerous boards of note, Dr. Wilson also served on President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.
  • Lifelong Learning Prize: Dr. Barbara Oakley has made learning easier for millions of people from all walks of life by revealing how insights from neuroscience can improve our understanding of challenging concepts in math and engineering—and countless other fields. More than 5 million people worldwide have taken her free massive open online courses (MOOCs). These offerings include “Mindshift,” for midlife learners, “Uncommon Sense Teaching,” for educators, and “Learning How to Learn,” one of the most popular MOOCs of all time.

“As we look for ways to transform education, we should look to the work of these three innovators and leaders. They have had a tremendous impact – enabling countless students and lifelong learners to access a high-quality education and thrive socio-emotionally and academically,” said Katharine Strunk, Dean of Penn GSE and a leading expert on improving student achievement. “So rarely do giants in the field get the recognition they deserve, and the McGraw Prize is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the innovators who are making a difference.”

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation selected Penn GSE as the home for the McGraw Prize in 2020. Penn GSE is recognized internationally for its cutting-edge initiatives, distinguished faculty and as a training ground for top educators and leaders. The partnership includes administering the annual prize in November, and ongoing programming with more than 100 past winners, including symposia and a webinar series.

Through a public nomination process, McGraw Prize awardees were submitted for consideration by their peers, with winners then selected during three rounds of judging, including a final round by an independent panel of esteemed leaders in the field. Past winners have included teachers, professors, superintendents, university presidents, non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs and public officials.  Many continue to play major roles across the education landscape.

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The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation, established by Harold W. McGraw, Jr., is a not-for-profit private foundation whose primary mission is focused on education, youth services, community health and medical research. Harold W. McGraw, Jr. was the Chairman and CEO of McGraw-Hill and dedicated his life to education and literacy. 


The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, or Penn GSE, is one of the nation’s leading research education schools and is currently ranked #3 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators. It is also home to the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition and centers such as Catalyst @ Penn GSE, a hub for global education innovation.

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