Toth and Browning to receive Distinguished Leader Award

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Advocates for education honored by Leadership Akron Alumni Association

The Leadership Akron Alumni Association has named Kirstin Toth and Nick Browning this year’s recipients of its Distinguished Leader Award. The award recognizes a graduate(s) of Leadership Akron who has contributed in an extraordinary and significant way to a specific issue or cause in the community. The award honors Toth’s and Browning’s partnership and commitment to revitalize and stabilize Summit Education Initiative (SEI), bringing the organization from nearly closing their doors to, now, an integral part of improving Summit County’s educational systems.

Toth, a graduate of Leadership Akron Class 27 and Senior Vice President of GAR Foundation, joined the board of SEI during a crucial time in the organization’s history. SEI had lost their strategic direction and was on a path to ceasing to exist. Toth led the organization through a holistic reboot - developing a new strategic plan from the ground up, rebuilding the board, and hiring a new executive director in Derran Wimer. She embraced a years-long process of driving this new strategy through to completion.

Nick Browning, a Class 17 graduate of Leadership Akron and President of the Akron Region, Huntington National Bank, was serving on SEI’s board during much of this transition time. He brought his business experience to the forefront for the organization, sitting down with the staff to understand what they did and how they did it. He helped Wimer formalize and adopt processes that clarified the work flow and supported the long-term stability of the organization. Browning helped put in place a process mapping strategy to ensure operational excellence of SEI.

SEI began in 1994 as an initiative by Akron’s philanthropic and corporate leadership to support improving our Summit County schools and educational systems. Through Toth’s and Browning’s dedication to not only saving, but strengthening SEI, the organization now holds not only deep local relevance, but national prominence in the education field. Those involved in the changes made to the educational systems in Summit County point to SEI as a strong leader for change in these systems.

“I am thrilled that Kirstin and Nick are receiving this well-deserved recognition. The growth and success of SEI is due to their unselfish commitment, steady guidance, ambitious vision, belief in collaborative action and energetic leadership,” said Derran Wimer, Executive Director, Summit Education Initiative.

In addition to their hard work with SEI, both Toth and Browning work passionately throughout the community. Toth is the immediate Past Board Chair for SEI, Chair for ConxusNEO, the Grantmaking and Evaluation Chair for the Fund for our Economic Future, and serves on the advisory committee for First Things First. Browning’s involvement includes Board Chair of Leadership Akron, as well as board roles with the Greater Akron Chamber, Summa Health, Akron Community Foundation, Downtown Akron Partnership, and the Sisler McFawn Foundation.

Toth and Browning will be honored at the national conference of the Association of Leadership Programs in Phoenix, AZ in June 2017. They will also be recognized at the Leadership Akron Alumni Association’s Annual Meeting in August.


For over 30 years, Leadership Akron has equipped participants for community involvement and leadership. Through a variety of experiences, Leadership Akron serves over 300 leaders each year with experiences that grow their community awareness and involvement. For more information on Leadership Akron, visit their website at