Standing United Across the Miles

Map of the U.S.

NEA-Retired members gather in their first-ever Virtual Annual Meeting

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

“Elections matter!” That was the resounding theme of the 2020 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting, which took place June 29 and 30. The coronavirus forced creative solutions for this year’s “gathering” of some 335 delegates—representing the 354,000 members of NEA-Retired. Not to be deterred, delegates from Hawaii, New York, Alabama, and everywhere in between, convened through conference call and webinar. Not even a global pandemic can halt the important work of NEA-Retired!

And the most important work of all is to elect a new U.S. president in the 2020 election. As NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in her address to the delegates, NEA’s mission No. 1 is “to fire Betsy DeVos’s boss,” and elect Joe Biden, a steadfast supporter of educators’ associations and public schools.

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle returned to the same theme, praising NEA-Retired members for their generous contributions to NEA’s political action committee, the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. She also called on members to contact their U.S. senators and demand that they pass the HEROES Act—which would stabilize state funding for education jobs and social services for retirees, among other benefits. “I know you, NEA-Retired, so I have no doubt you’ll mobilize like nobody else can, and get it done!” Pringle said.

NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman

NEA-Retired President Sarah Borgman spoke passionately about the need for members to work to turn out the vote for Joe Biden in this presidential election. “Your greatest responsibility is to elect a new president,” she said, adding that the election “could affect public education for years to come.”

NEA-Retired Elections

The U.S. presidential election isn’t the only important vote happening this year. NEA-Retired delegates will also elect a new president in 2020. The candidates for NEA-Retired president are current president, Sarah Borgman, from Indiana, and Ronald Burgess, from New Jersey. Five candidates are also running for two seats on the NEA-Retired Executive Council: Tom Wellman, from Nevada; Meg Gruber, of Virginia; Emma Shepard, from Louisiana; Pauline George, from Alabama; and JoAnn Smith-Mashburn, of Alabama. Because the NEA-Retired Annual Meeting was held virtually, ballots are being submitted by mail. Election results will be announced on August 6, 2020, or on August 31, 2020, if a runoff is required. Check for results.

Distinguished Service Awards

Tom Curran

In a heartfelt announcement, Borgman presented the 2020 NEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award posthumously to former NEA-Retired President Tom Curran, who passed away in March. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes members who have made significant contributions to their local, state, and national organizations. And there could be no more fitting recipient than Curran, who committed his life to education.

Curran began his career as a junior high school English and social studies teacher and then became a guidance counselor in Westbrook, Maine. He served in many different roles with the Westbrook Teachers Association, including vice president and president. He later became vice president of the Maine Education Association (MEA) and served on the Maine Board of Directors. Tom retired after a 35-year career in education and served as MEA Retired’s vice president and president. He was later elected to the NEA-Retired Executive Council, eventually becoming vice president and then president.

Tom Curran’s brother, Peter, who is also an NEA-Retired member, spoke on his brother’s behalf: “Tom dedicated his life in the last 20 years to NEA-Retired. I know he would be proud and pleased with the award you are giving him.”

Membership Awards

NEA-Retired members have flexed their organizing muscle this year, contributing to strong growth in Retired state affiliate membership. Congratulations go to the 2020 winners of the NEA-Retired Membership Awards: Education Minnesota Retired had the greatest percentage membership gain, with an increase of 1.052%; and the California Teachers Association-Retired had the greatest numerical membership increase, adding 528 new members!

Kinnaman Award Winners

Jack Kinnaman

The delegates also awarded the Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship to five members of the NEA Aspiring Educators program. Thanks to the generous donations of NEA-Retired members, each of these deserving students will receive a $2,500 scholarship. The 2020 winners include: Madeline E. Burk, from the University of Oregon; Amanda Johnson, who will attend Arizona State University this fall; Tori Mitchell, of Kansas State University, who won the award for the second time; Trevor Roznowski, of Michigan’s Ferris State University; and Alissa Flynn, who attends UCLA.

The award was created in memory of former NEA-Retired Vice President Jack Kinnaman. To make a donation, visit For information about how to apply for the scholarship, click here.

The Power to Create Change

The passion and commitment of NEA-Retired members knows no bounds—and only deepens in these difficult times. As Pringle reflected, “If we continue to love each other and the work we’ve dedicated our professional and association lives to, we will not only get through this, we will help transform a nation.”