Skip to main content


Communities of Excellence 2026 Blogs

Communities of Excellence 2026 Co-Founders Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

January 17th, 2023

Communities of Excellence 2026 Co-Founders Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Today Al Faber, President and CEO of the Baldrige Foundation in Washington, D.C., announced that COE 2026 Co-Founders Lowell C. Kruse and Richard A. Norling are the recipients of the E. David Spong Lifetime Achievement Award. 

This award recognizes individuals who have performed truly extraordinary service that has changed the world, and inspired others to do the same. “For 2023, we have dual recipients of the E. David Spong Lifetime Achievement Award: Lowell C. Kruse, Baldrige Award Recipient and Cofounder of Communities of Excellence 2026, and Richard A. Norling, Baldrige Award Recipient and Cofounder of Communities of Excellence 2026,” said Faber. “Lowell and Richard did groundbreaking work to adapt the Baldrige framework to the Community setting, leading in 2022 to Congress officially authorizing Community as an eligible category for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.”

In July of 2022, President Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 which also included language authorizing community as the newest Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Category.  This action represented many years of hard work by leaders across the Baldrige Enterprise and a critical step towards the realization of the vision set forth by Lowell and Rick when they first imagined COE 2026 in 2010.

The Foundation’s Leadership Awards will be presented during the Foundation Awards Luncheon held as part of the annual Quest for Excellence® conference near Washington, D.C. on April 4, 2023.  The Awards Luncheon will also recognize COE 2026 Executive Director Stephanie Norling for Leadership Excellence in the nonprofit sector.

Read the full announcement from the Baldrige Foundation here.

About Communities of Excellence 2026

Communities of Excellence 2026 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that hosts a learning collaborative of communities, trains communities in the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework, and provides opportunities for communities to work together, share successes, challenges, ideas, and best practices, and learn from each other on their performance excellence journey. There are 26 communities with populations ranging from 7,500 to 2.8 million in 15 states impacted by COE 2026 and 25 communities currently involved in the National Learning Collaborative.  For more information go to