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Celebrate Excellence! The 2021 Distinguished Service Award

This esteemed award was established by the American Home Economics Association (AHEA) Foundation in 1979 as a living tribute to members to recognize superior achievements in family and consumer sciences and sustained association leadership. A list of prior recipients may be found here.

Joanne Bankston, Ph.D.

"She has enhanced and improved the lives of many through her work in FCS. Her passion has inspired many who work in FCS as well as others who will enter the field." ~ Linda Brown-Price, Family & Consumer Sciences Area Specialist and AAFCS member

Karen Bergh, Ph.D.

"Dr. Bergh’s selfless work and her lifelong commitment to give back to our profession have had a significant impact on our ability to recruit, prepare and support our FCS educators at the national level."  ~ Jan Bowers, CFCS, National CEO, FCS Education Association and AAFCS member

Duane Whitbeck, Ph.D.

"Duane leads by example as an FCS leader, academic of practice, administrator, family nurturer, and friend. . . . I count myself fortunate to have been part of his sphere of influence."  ~ Carol Werhan, Clinical Associate Professor, Purdue University, College of Education and AAFCS member

Read more about Joanne!

Dr. Bankston is an 32-year member of AAFCS and a member of the Kentucky Affiliate. She was nominated by AAFCS members of the National Coalition of Black Development in FCS. Dr. Bankston has conducted her life’s work with distinction in the field of family and consumer sciences. She has served in several roles including: home economics teacher, extension specialist, Director of the Cooperative Extension System National Center for Diversity, college professor, coordinator of family and consumer sciences, and interim co-extension administrator for over 50 years. As a tireless advocate for family and consumer sciences, she is passionate about the field of study, its grounding in science and social science, its importance, continued development and expansion. Dr. Bankston has held numerous leadership roles including: the 2010-11 president of the KY chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the Extension professional organization; and served as 2012 chairperson of the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP). She was also president of the Association of Home Equipment Educators (AHEE) from 2011-13 and in 2013 accepted the Chairman’s Partnership Award on behalf of AHEE from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC. She was vice president of the Council of Administrators in Family and Consumer Sciences (CAFCS) 2017-18. She served several terms on the Kentucky Attorney General’s Consumer Advisory Council. Dr. Bankston also received numerous awards. She was honored as a “Legend in Family and Consumer Sciences” at the AAFCS Annual Conference and Expo in 2016. She received the 2016 Award for Excellence in Extension from the Association of Extension Administrators for her outstanding contributions to Cooperative Extension at 1890 Historically Black Universities.

Read more about Karen!

Karen, an Emeritus member, hold 21 years of AAFCS membership and was nominated by her her fellow members in the Washington Affiliate of AAFCS. Dr. Bergh has held professional positions as a Family and Consumer Sciences secondary teacher and higher education Family and Consumer Sciences teacher educator and program administrator since 1966. Throughout this time, she has been actively engaged in sustained leadership roles to advance Family and Consumer Sciences at the local, state, and national levels. She believes in networking and collaborative problem solving and has served in various positions to that end, including chairing the AAFCS Annual Conference and Expo. Karen has given conference and workshop presentations on the state, national, and international levels. A highlight was a presentation, “Teaching Models in the United States”, which she co-presented to the Asian Regional Association of Home Economics in Singapore. She served on the task force to develop the National Standards for Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences. As a teacher educator at Central Washington University, Karen connected with interested institutional partners to develop an FCS Education graduate teacher certification program with the Great Plains IDEA. She has been the Summit Project Manager for a USDA grant, The National Partnership for Recruiting, Preparing, and Supporting Family and Consumer Sciences Educators. She believes in the importance of modeling leadership for her students, supporting them and encouraging them to network and to be active participants in professional organizations. She is gratified to observe many former students now hold professional board positions and present at conferences and workshops. AAFCS is honored to celebrate Karen for her Distinguished Service to AAFCS and FCS!

Read more about Duane!

Whitbeck was nominated by the Kansas Affiliate and has been a member of AAFCS for 21 years. A teacher educator at five universities, for the first 15 years Dr. Whitbeck focused primarily on the early childhood education/child development area. Since 1997, his focus has been on Family & Consumer Sciences and the integration of disciplines to produce the next generation of aspiring professionals. Through his affiliation with AAFCS, he has served in a variety of roles, most notably as a four-year member of the Board of Directors and as President in 2016 – 2017. He continues his commitment to strengthen affiliates and enhance the leadership roles for newer professionals at the state and national level. Dr. Whitbeck serves as the Department Chair of the Family & Consumer Sciences at Pittsburg State University, and will retire in May 2021. In his tenure, he has been an inspirational leader with a lasting positive impact on his students and faculty -- one of his guiding principles is teaching students to enhance their personal professional growth and achievement through saying “Yes” to challenging opportunities. His advocacy and support for Family and Consumer Sciences has been impactful to many. AAFCS is honored to celebrate his achievements with the Distinguished Service Award!

Share Your Congrats!

Share your letters and notes via email to for a special keepsake "Book of Letters" AAFCS will assemble for our DSA honorees. Please email or call 800-424-8080 ext. 4606 with any questions.

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The American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. AAFCS’ tax ID number is: 53-0025870.