Industry Honors

The American Cheese Society bestows awards upon individuals based on contributions to the industry, the support and promotion of American cheese, and volunteer service to the association.

Nominations for the 2022 Awards are now closed. The winners will be announced at the Business Meeting at the ACS Annual Conference.



Nomination Procedure

ACS members have an opportunity to nominate a candidate by presenting an application which demonstrates a nominee’s contributions to the criteria listed below.

Nominations for the ACS awards are accepted and reviewed annually by the ACS Nomination Committee and are approved by the ACS Board of Directors. Recipients are named and honored at the Business Luncheon at the annual ACS Conference, and in the ACS e-newsletter.

  • Complete the official nomination form online during the nomination period
  • Provide a one-page summary of the nominee’s demonstrated contributions, focusing on the above criteria
  • Provide the nominee’s biography
  • Provide two (2) letters of support for the nominee

Lifetime Achievement Award


The ACS Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2006 by the American Cheese Society Board of Directors to honor an individual whose professional accomplishments have made a significant and lasting impact in the American cheese industry, and whose life and character have earned the respect and admiration of their professional colleagues. Nominees must have served the profession over an extended period and will be honored for their service and performance. Recipients may or may not be ACS members.

The ACS Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented whenever a worthy recipient is identified. This may or may not be an annual occurrence.


Nominees must have served the profession over an extended period of time. Recipients may or may not be ACS members. The award recipient must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be an individual whose professional accomplishments have made a significant and lasting impact in the American cheese industry.
  • Be respected and admired by professional colleagues.
  • Demonstrate strength in building, supporting and advancing the society and its membership.
  • Have a minimum of thirty (30) years’ experience in a cheese-related profession.

Above and Beyond Award


Launched in 2012, this award may be granted to individuals who have made an outstanding volunteer contribution to a specific project for ACS, or who have played a key role in a noteworthy association initiative that has impacted the cheese industry in a meaningful way.


Current ACS members in all membership categories are eligible for this award. Award recipients should have made a real and impactful contribution to ACS and/or the cheese industry that is directly related to their project work. The contribution should directly advance at least one of ACS’s core values:

  • Network and Communicate
  • Education and Resources
  • Sustainability

While there is no minimum duration of service that is required, in general, award recipients have given in excess of 400 hours of volunteer time in support of a specific project.

Congratulations to 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients, Debra K. Dickerson and Alyce Birchenough

Alyce Birchenough

Alyce Birchenough carved a path for herself to professional cheesemaking. She is one of the founding cheesemakers of the American specialty cheese industry that we know and enjoy today. Described by her peers as an inspirational, determined, and resourceful leader in the specialty cheese industry, “I cannot think of another individual who has contributed more to the elevation of this industry by helping so many others with their cheese struggles.”

Even though she has been making cheese for well over four decades, Alyce’s thirst for knowledge has pushed the efforts of ACS to further develop educational programming and content, benefitting countless ACS members–cheesemakers, retailers, and distributors alike. Her decades of service on committees including Judging and Competition, Regulatory, and Education, have helped elevate the expertise of people across the industry and our regulatory partners. Alyce has dedicated herself not only to cheesemaking, but to the health and development of a larger cheese community, literally helping develop the tools and connections that were not available when she was starting out. Never one to seek the limelight for herself, Alyce’s commitment to ACS has been to ensure that the resources, knowledge, and expertise is there for the next generation of American cheesemakers.

Please join us in honoring Alyce and thanking her for her dedication to our cheese community!

Debra K. Dickerson

Debra Dickerson has been spreading the joy of good cheese by expanding diversity and advanced job opportunities in the food world for decades. Education has always been a part of sustainable sales growth, and Debra has been

educating cheese buyers and cheese mongers with Tomales Bay Foods since 2009. She is currently the Director of Education at Tomales Bay Foods/Cowgirl Creamery.

Debra is a champion of cheese. She has taught countless people to see the beauty in cheese and to preserve the integrity of each wheel. Debra’s optimism is contagious and hearing her talk about cheese excites even the lactose intolerant. In short, Debra, is a cheese saint and the cheese community is lucky to have her.

Please join us in honoring Debra and thanking her for her dedication to our cheese community!

Past Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients
  • Marianne Smukowski, 2020
  • Ig Vella
  • Dan Carter
  • Steve Jenkins
  • Kathleen Shannon Finn
  • John Greeley
  • Daphne Zepos
  • Ricki Carroll
  • Ari Weinzweig
  • Cathy Strange
  • Mike & Carol Gingrich
  • Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
Past Above and Beyond Award Recipients

Academy of Cheese


The ACS Academy of Cheese (AoC) was created in 1993 to honor individuals who have made, or continue to make, valuable contributions that impact the American cheese industry. The charter induction honored ACS’s original founders and early supporters. Classes of inductees share a related industry vocation for their collective dedication to and passion for growing and supporting the artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheese industry in North America. Inductions can be made in any year, but emphasis is placed on marking anniversary years or significant events with inductions. Classes of inductees are based on a common theme among candidates. AoC provides an opportunity to honor and celebrate these exceptional individuals and raise awareness of their unique contributions to the industry.


Inductees may include cheesemakers, cheesemongers, supporting trade members, authors, educators, academics and others who, over the course of a career (generally ten (10) years or more), have demonstrated leadership and commitment to strengthening and contributing to ACS and the wider cheese industry.

Past Academy of Cheese Recipients

1993 Academy of Cheese (ACS 10th Anniversary)
Class: “ACS Founders”

Inductees include the original founders of ACS whose impetus led to the creation of the association in 1983 at Cornell University. Their vision continues to shape ACS today, as the organization reflects the core values and goals they laid out in the early days of the American artisan cheese movement.

  • Frank Kosikowski
  • Dick Kleyn
  • Patrick Rance

2011 Academy of Cheese (First ACS Conference outside US, Montréal)
Class: “Pioneers of Goat Cheese”

Inductees are among some of the earliest and most successful producers of goat cheese in the U.S., leading the charge when goat cheese had not yet attained its current popularity among American consumers. They inspired the next generation of producers, and brought goat cheese to the fore.

  • Jennifer Bice
  • Laura Chenel
  • Allison Hooper
  • Mary Keehn
  • Lettie and Bob Killmoyer
  • Bob Reese
  • Judy Schad
  • Anne Topham