Ferguson Celebrates 30 Years with NACAC

NACAC’s Gregory Ferguson stopped by the Philadelphia National College Fair in November 2015. Ferguson celebrated 30 years with NACAC last month. (Chuck Fazio Photography)

NACAC’s Gregory Ferguson applied to the association three times before being hired in 1987 as assistant director of National College Fairs (NCF).

What kept him coming back? Unwavering support for the program’s mission.

“I really firmly believe: For any student who wants to go to college, there is an institution out there for them,” said Ferguson, who celebrated his 30th year with NACAC last month. Under his leadership, the NCF program has grown steadily and gained a national reputation for quality.

Ferguson, who now serves as the program’s executive director, recently sat down with Admitted to talk about his contributions to NACAC, the future of the NCF program, and what inspires his work.

What initially drew you to NACAC?
I felt NACAC had something to offer all students, regardless of their socioeconomic or ethnic background. Previous to NACAC, I developed the Summer Educational Experience Program (SEEP) for students of color, coordinated an Educational Opportunity Center Unit for students in Philadelphia, and founded a Talent Search Program for students in Chester, Pennsylvania. I also secured funding in excess of $250,000 from the William Penn Foundation to open a regional college access office in Philadelphia. As a result of my experiences, I felt that I had a great deal of expertise to help not only students of color, but all students. The NCF program was very attractive to me because it welcomed a wide-range of institutions and a wide-range of students from all different backgrounds.

How has the National College Fairs program changed since you’ve joined the association?
When I started here in ’87, I think we had probably 35 National College Fairs, and an NCF staff of five. Today we have over 90 programs, which include not only National College Fairs, but Performing & Visual Arts College Fairs and STEM College and Career Fairs.

NACAC’s National Colleges Fairs are well-respected among counselors, colleges, and families alike. What’s the secret to the program’s success?
Our members are very engaged in the program, which is a huge part of its success. Each fair is supported by a local committee of volunteers. They see the value of what they’re doing, in terms of bringing these programs to the inner-city and to suburban and rural areas to assist students in finding that right fit.

Our fairs are also successful because they are well-respected. Around the country other organizations will try to emulate what we do. What makes our fairs so significant and so important is that they have rules and regulations. The programs are offered and operate with integrity.

During your time at the helm, the NCF program has continued to expand, adding new fairs and serving new areas of the country. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
The thing that I’m most proud of is generating revenue for the association…Our fairs really provide a solid (financial) base for the NCF program and for other NACAC programs. I’m also proud of working with the affiliates, letting them know that NACAC is there to support their efforts. Trust is important, and it’s one of the reasons the National College Fairs program has been able to continue to expand. We didn’t have to go looking for sites. People recognized what NACAC was doing and they came to us and wanted us to work with them to coordinate a national fair for their area.

Mentoring young professionals is also important to me, primarily because during the early stages of my career seasoned admission professionals groomed and encouraged me to partake in working with programs that provided postsecondary access. My director of admission from my alma mater, David B. Kent, Jr. exposed me to NACAC, when he served on the Executive Board of NACAC as treasurer. I believe in inspiring those who wish to aspire for greater things in this profession.

How many fairs do you make it to each year?
Four — I’ll go to observe, to keep my hands on the pulse of what’s going on, to talk to members, and to talk to parents and students. As a director, you should immerse yourself into the work that propels you. You must hear from students and their parents; you must hear from exhibitors; you must hear from your staff. You must wear many different hats.

Looking forward, what do you think the future holds for National College Fairs?
I think STEM is in our future. I see those programs taking off and being an integral part of the college fairs arena. I also think there are still some suburban and rural areas that remain untapped in terms of access, and I think we will also start to look more globally. And of course, technology will continue to play a role in how we do things. Lead retrieval has been a tremendous addition to our National College Fairs program, and I foresee technology playing a larger role in the years to come.

What motivates you?
I still very much feel that every student should have access to higher education. I’m excited to come to work knowing that a program that I started working with in 1987 is still going on and is still meaningful to students. When I talk with someone and they tell me they benefited from one of our college fairs, it propels me. It makes me feel that I’ve had a part in changing their lives and in changing the world.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

15 thoughts on “Ferguson Celebrates 30 Years with NACAC”

  1. Congratulations to a well deserved,hard working,determined brother,may God continue to bless you as you prepare for the next step in your life.

  2. Congratulations Greg!!! 30 years is nothing to sneeze at, and honestly, kind of unheard of in this day and age.

    Your wisdom, professionalism and compassion (to say nothing of that distinct “Greg Ferguson chuckle”) are your trademark “best” qualities; qualities that many, many of us have come to appreciate and emulate (I’m still working on the chuckle).

    Thank you for all that you do – everyday on behalf of students everywhere.

  3. Congratulations Greg!! NACAC has been lucky to have you for the last 30 years and will be lucky to have you for the next 30!!! You are a tremendous asset to the higher education profession and I have been so honored to work with you and learn from you! The highlights of my career include my time with National College Fairs! Thank you for all you do and all you will do to for all of us in this profession but most importantly for our students!

  4. Congratulations Greg! I’m so excited for you and this amazing achievement. It was an honor to serve the NCF department under your leadership. You are truly an inspiration to so many. When you would ask me where I see myself in 5, 10, 20 years… I used to say I want to be in your role, and that is still so true. The professional and personal attributes you possess align so closely to this role you have held and mastered over the years, as you have increased access to higher education for so many students and collaborated with colleagues across the country and world. You have positively impacted so many lives, more than you’ll ever know. Thank you!

  5. Wow, Greg!! Congratulations, my friend, on 30 industrious and dedicated years with NACAF. Obviously, you found your niche and passion with the organization; and, not surprisingly, you gave 100% of yourself in promoting the program’s mission of “higher learning access”.
    Without a doubt, countless students have certainly benefited from NACAF and your zealous determination/position to assist them in acquiring info packs on schools and fundings at the many College Fairs you set up and hosted.
    Job well done, Greg! Need more people in the world with a desire to help others. Congrats, again, and proud of you!

    1968 H.S. Classmate,
    Linda J. Thornton

  6. Greg, You may not remember me, but I was at The Blake School (Minnesota) in the college counseling department through the ’90s. It always was such a joy to see you at the NACAC College Fair. Your upbeat attitude, your great smile and most of all, your control of whatever glitch appeared enriched my experience as a volunteer. All the best in your retirement! Susan

    1. Susan, thank you sincerely for your kind words. Without a doubt I do remember you. Always calm and an advocate for students in the college access pipeline. It was counselors like you that made my work at NACAC both meaningful and successful. Working with professionals, like you, who put students first always wins my admiration. You and countless of others kept me energized.

  7. Congratulations on an outstanding career, Greg. While I may have never worked closely with you, I enjoyed our interactions at many a NACAC Conference and other meetings. Thank you for your service and enjoy this next phase.

  8. Thank you Bridget for your kind words. It was always a pleasure to see and interact with you. NACAC is lucky to have a dedicated professional, such as you, among its membership.

  9. Congrats Greg! Prior to my years on the NACAC BOD I was a proud member of your College Fair Advisory Committee. That is when I learned what a good leader you were. That is where I found my love of the College Fair Program. To this day, while in retirement I rarely miss our local Fair. Thanks to you. Hope you enjoy some well earned “down time!”

    1. Mike, it was always a pleasure to work with you. Your commitment to both students and the profession was admirable. NACAC is what it is because of you, strong with a sense of purpose!!!

  10. Greg! A tremendous shout out goes to you from the Minnesota National College Fair LAC (and a big hug from Katie Voller-Berdan at Marshall School). Our committee so appreciates the work you’ve done to grow access to higher education for all students. Your jovial spirit, quick wit, avid professionalism, strategic guidance, and love for MAUI WOWI (smoothies!) will remain your legend. You smile with your eyes and chuckle with your entire soul. Congratulations and thank you for your 30 year service.

    1. Katie, though serious in approach, you were one of most thought provoking and caring chairs that I have ever worked with. Thorough, yet sensitive to the needs of students in the college search pipeline. I am proud to consider you a colleague, whom I have great respect for.

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