The Distinguished Fellow Award is one of AFCPE’s highest accolades.

In honor of Celia Ray Hayhoe

This award recognizes an individual who has made significant and long-lasting contributions to AFCPE over the years.

The nominee should be a leader in the field of financial counseling and planning education; and must exhibit the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct throughout his or her professional career.

Nominations for 2024 will open summer 2024. 

2023 AFCPE Distinguished Fellow, Syble Solomon

Congratulations to past winners of the AFCPE® Distinguished Fellow Award! 

Syble Solomon

Syble Solomon Headshot smiling

Syble Solomon is the founder of Money Habitudes, an innovative product that has revolutionized how we interact with our finances. This resource has helped countless individuals gain control over their financial lives and contributed significantly to AFCPE’s mission. As a longtime AFCPE member, Syble served two terms on the AFCPE Board of Directors, participated in multiple committees, and has consistently shared her knowledge through presentations, articles, and mentorship. 

Dottie Durband, AFC®

This year’s winner is a committed leader, accomplished researcher, and phenomenal educator from Texas Tech University. She is what some call the Godmother of Financial Counseling. As a teacher and educator, she has provided mentorship, leadership, and the gift of knowledge to countless students. She has been a professor and administrator at Texas Tech and Kansas State Universities. 

She was the founding chair of the TTU Department of Community, Family, and Addiction Services and is most well-known as the founding director of the nationally recognized Red to Black® program. Her focus as an educator has been on counseling and communication skills and helping those with the greatest need. She has numerous awards and recognitions including two Distinguished Teaching Awards. Recently an award was named in her honor for her exemplary service and dedication to the Red to Black® Peer Financial Coaching organization. 

Her research in academic leadership, personal financial behavior, and workplace financial education have been referenced multiple times and influenced many leaders in the room today. 

Despite all of her professional success, her greatest success lies in the hearts and lives of the students and individuals that she has influenced over her tenured career. 

Ryan H. Law, CFP®, AFC®

Ryan H. Law is the Director of the Utah Valley University Money Management Resource Center where volunteer peer Financial Coaches educate students, faculty and staff through one-on-one counseling sessions and presentations on campus. He also teaches in the Personal Financial Planning program at Utah Valley University. 
Ryan is first and foremost a teacher. He loves being in the classroom educating students on how to be better stewards of their money. In 2015 he was honored as the Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year. Ryan students, helping them become effective financial counselors. As one of these students said, “Ryan doesn’t just care about us as financial counselors – he invites us to his home and we become part of his family.”

Ryan has used his teaching skills to provide guidance and materials to help other institutions start student money management centers nationwide. In 2018, Utah Valley University Money Management Resource Center was named Financial Counseling and/or Planning Center of the Year.

Ryan has contributed to AFCPE as a longtime member, volunteer, content writer, and he served on the AFCPE Board from 2017 to 2021 and as 2020 AFCPE Board President. 

2019: Jinhee Kim

Dr. Jinhee Kim, AFC® has been a committed leader, accomplished researcher, and phenomenal educator for the University of Maryland as a Professor and Extension Specialist since 2000. In her role, she has provided leadership for Family and Consumer Science Financial Wellness programs and has conducted extensive research examining relationships between family financial management, family well-being, health, and the impact of interventions around family financial issues.

As a thought leader in the field, she has produced 48 peer-reviewed publications, three book chapters, and made 80+ refereed conference presentations. Her accolades include receiving two best papers and two best conference paper awards. In addition, she has successfully secured and managed grant projects exceeding $2.9 million as a Principal Investigator and obtained $600,000+ in cost recovery for Extension programs. She has actively trained over 2,000 Extension and financial professionals and taught departmental courses addressing family financial management and credit. Finally, she has mentored numerous faculty, students, post-doctoral researchers, and volunteers; extending her programmatic reach within the field.

In addition to her work within Maryland, Dr. Kim has been an active leader within the AFCPE community. She has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning and currently serves as Associate Editor. In addition, she has participated in numerous elected leadership positions, most notably, Treasurer, President-Elect, President, and Past-President, as well as represented the association on several tasks forces and has chaired the Finance, Investment, Research, Nomination, and Conference committee.

Dr. Jinhee Kim epitomizes what it means to be an AFCPE member. She bridges the gap between practice and research and applies the knowledge she studies to use within households and communities. She is a brilliant scholar and understands the role that education has in making a difference in families. In her words, “my endeavor to balance being both an educator and researcher is the most fulfilling part of my job.”

*Adapted from her 2019 nomination letter

2018: Madeleine Greene

Madeleine Greene, AFC® has made significant and continuous contributions to AFCPE throughout its history. Beginning her career as a Home Economics teacher, Madeleine worked as an educator for Cooperative Extension in Maryland for 25 years, retiring from a tenured Extension faculty position. She continued her professional career as a military personal finance counselor and family life consultant. She served in elected state and national leadership roles for Extension. She has a Master’s in Science degree in Consumer Studies and has been an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) since 1997. She has advanced education in insurance.

Her participation in and dedication to AFCPE is lengthy. She attended each Symposium since 1992, frequently serving as an exhibitor, presenter, and moderator. She served as co-chair of the Symposium Poster Committee, member of the 2015-2016 curriculum writing team, the 2016 Strategic Planning Task Force, and chaired the Certification Council. She represented AFCPE at the Capital Hill Finance Day, the President’s Financial Literacy Coalition, CFA Finance Forum, JumpStart Annual Meeting, and Bank-On National Forum.

She taught Financial Readiness at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for seven years and for more than 10 years as a Military Financial Counselor worked assignments in Europe and the United States as requested. The co-author of the “Best Little Money Book”, reprinted three times and used by groups for training, her book has been specially printed for the Delaware and Maryland Commissions for Women. She and colleagues developed multiple programs and handouts for use by the Department of Defense Military Family Life Counselors. Her programs are used by counselors around the world.

As you might expect of a professional of Madeleine’s stature, she has received numerous awards, among them the AFCPE Financial Counselor of the Year Award and National Extension Educator of the Year Award. She was recognized by the Maryland State Legislature as the Community Leader for Personal Finance in 2016.

One of the most important characteristics of a great professional is seeing the potential in colleagues, then encouraging and mentoring them to rise to their potential. She is a professional who sets a high standard for herself, leads by example, and sets a standard that others are compelled to also achieve. Through the breakout sessions, she was selected to present at several AFCPE Symposia, she frequently provided education on how to effectively engage students and clients in learning through creative use of candy, shredded money, and other attention-getting tools. The consummate professional, Madeleine is dedicated to educating not only clients and students, but her peers as well.

She maintains the highest ethical and professional standards, and is tireless in advancing the profession. Recognized as a leader who energetically tackles challenging situations, she has willingly served AFCPE without reservation for years. Madeleine Greene’s contributions to AFCPE are significant and merits our greatest honor.*

*Adapted from her 2018 nomination letter

2016: Barbara O’Neill

Barbara O’Neill, PhD, CFP®, CRPC®, AFC®, CHC® has been an active member of AFCPE® for thirty years. She has chaired numerous AFCPE® task forces and served as an AFCPE® conference submission reviewer, an AFCPE® awards reviewer, an AFC certification exam item writer, an ad hoc reviewer and book editor for the Journal of Financial Counseling & Planning, and a copyeditor for The Standard.

Dr. O’Neill has contributed her expertise to numerous newsletters and journals, led professional development training and served at the highest level as an AFCPE® Board member, as the Board Secretary and Board President. She has also attended and made one or more presentations at all but one AFCPE® symposiums since 1989, with a total of more than 75 presentations.

Her generosity spills into the field with a yearly contribution in the form of a $2500 mini-grant provided in memory of her mom, Mary O’Neill. To date, the mini-grant has provided more than $15,000 to support the innovative financial education projects of AFCPE® members.

Dr. O’Neill holds the rank of Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, and is Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Specialist in Financial Resource Management. She also provides national leadership for the Cooperative Extension Program Small Steps to Health and Wealth™. As an educator, she has written over 1,500 consumer newspaper articles and over 180 articles for academic journals and conference proceedings. 

Her academic accolades include a PhD from Virginia Tech. She is also certified as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®), a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®), an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®), a Certified Housing Counselor (CHC®), and a Certified Financial Educator (CFEd).

She has received more than 3 dozen awards for program excellence, including now 10 from AFCPE, and over $975,000 in funding to support her financial education programs and research.

She is well-known for creating and leading high impact Cooperative Extension financial education programs and, most importantly, she shares her program materials freely with others in presentations and publications.

Even with this impressive list of accomplishments she continues to expand her reach in the field – as part of the DoD funded project MFLN, and through her extensive outreach on social media, tweeting research-based financial education as @Moneytalk1.

Dr. O’Neill embodies the definition of a Distinguished Fellow – she is an educator, a researcher, a practitioner, a mentor and a pioneer. Her accomplishments are vast, and her impact through financial education, outreach and research continues to inspire students, professionals and consumers worldwide.

2015: Jean Lown

Jean Lown, PhD was a founding member of AFCPE®, attending preliminary organizational meetings at Brigham Young University in 1983 and at Iowa State University in 1984 when AFCPE® was formalized. Her involvement with AFCPE® has been going strong ever since. Jean has been extremely involved with the AFCPE® conferences, attending almost every year since 1984. She has presented at 22 of the 30 conferences, including 27 paper presentations and 8 poster presentations. She has also encouraged and financially supported dozens of students to attend the AFCPE® conference over the years. She has brought Utah State University students to every conference since 1994.

She has been the recipient of two AFCPE® Awards, including the Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year and the Outstanding Journal Paper award. But her commitment to and involvement with AFCPE® is not limited to conferences. She has served two terms on the AFCPE® board, 2005-2006 and 2007-2009. She has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning continuously since 1993, and published 11 articles in the same journal.

In the last year, Jean founded the research task force, building the foundation upon which the theme of this year’s symposium originated. Her work in the field and within AFCPE® embodies the bridge we are building.

2014: Sharon Cabeen

This year, AFCPE® was proud to recognize Sharon Cabeen, AFC® as the recipient of the Distinguished Fellow Award. The honor goes to a colleague who deserves our greatest recognition for his or her significant and long-lasting contributions to AFCPE® and to the field. It also must represent someone who exhibits the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. This is Sharon Cabeen.

Sharon has spent 10 years serving AFCPE® in a variety of capacities, including: Chairperson of the Member Services Committee; member of the Strategic Planning Committee; and an officer of the Board and Executive Board as President and Past President.

A fellow colleague fondly recalls, “Once Sharon joined our team, her passion and mission to assist consumers in better managing their finances was obvious. Although our organization’s focus is on the student — that is, student access, retention and student loan debt — she has helped us, and others in the higher education industry, realize that our contributions are a small part of the bigger picture, which she refers to as ‘The Farm’.”

The Farm is an analogy that Sharon uses to describe the world of finances. The silos on the farm are the different components of the big financial picture, including student loans, credit, spending, etc. With more than 35 years of experience – 25 years in credit counseling management and financial education and 10 years in the student loan industry – Sharon has devoted much of her career to building a bridge between the industry’s silos.

As a result of her efforts, professionals in each silo have retained and shared knowledge invaluable to one another. Student loan counselors have experience in the complex world of the FAFSA and student loan repayment, while AFCs are equipped to discuss multiple debt types and help consumers develop spending plans that align with their personal values and financial goals. Sharon has used her leadership to open the eyes of both industries and to realize the importance of collaboration.

Sharon is the creator of two different financial literacy programs that are being used today by two different organizations. Thanks to Sharon, there has been an increase in AFC® certifications as well as AFCPE® memberships from student financial aid professionals, lenders and guarantors across the country. Because of her, scholarships were created for student financial aid professionals to enroll in the AFC program and student financial aid experts are now attending and submitting proposals for conference presentations and increasing the network of knowledge amongst AFCPE®’s membership. And through her leadership, financial aid offices are now creating positions devoted to financial literacy on college campuses across the country with a focus on a holistic approach to student aid.

The bridge is being built. AFCPE® Staff, Board and Members agree – it has been, and continues to be, an honor to learn from Sharon and work together toward her vision of the perfect farm.

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