NCUST started in 2005 as the vision of then-President of San Diego State University (SDSU), Stephen Weber and then-Dean of the SDSU College of Education, Lionel “Skip” Meno. Both men envisioned SDSU playing a constructive role in improving urban education throughout the nation. With a generous $2.4 million gift from QUALCOMM, Inc. they established NCUST in 2005. Joseph F. Johnson, Jr. was hired to serve as the Center’s first executive director.
Immediately, the new Center established the National Excellence in Urban Education Award Program as a strategy to identify and begin to study some of the nation’s most successful urban schools. The first five schools were awarded in May 2006 at the Center’s first symposium. These first award winning schools and their successors nurtured the NCUST team’s conviction that all urban schools could achieve excellent learning results.