At Nelnet, the Steve Butterfield Award for Excellence in Leadership is an annual celebration of our collective commitment to service-driven leadership.
This honor was established in 2022 to honor the traits of the late Nelnet co-founder, co-CEO, and later vice chairman Steve Butterfield – or “Butter,” as he was affectionately known. Nelnet leaders are nominated for their commitment to serving others, developing and inspiring co-workers, and working to build a strong company culture.
The Steve Butterfield Leadership Award is presented to the Nelnet leader who best exemplifies passion for one or more of the following:
Service. A customer-focused leader who goes out of their way to take care of others.
People. An influential leader who strives to develop their associates and build our culture.
Humility. A servant leader who always put the wants and needs of their team first.
Vision. An inspiring leader who dreams big and works hard to achieve greatness.
Innovation. An enterprising leader who embraces change and turns obstacles into opportunities.
With these criteria in mind, the 2023 Butterfield Award was recently awarded to Natalie Artibee, Managing Director of Nelnet Diversified Services Organizational Initiatives and MarComm.
Natalie has been an integral part of Nelnet for over 40 years, starting her long journey in 1982 when the company employed less than 50 people. She first joined as a temporary, working in Document Services, and shortly thereafter moved into a permanent position within Claims before moving through Loan Servicing in different departments with increasing levels of responsibility.
Along the way, Natalie progressed her career by developing and executing on strategic organizational initiatives, solving problems, understanding business needs, and always doing what’s right. She has been integral to the success of large-scale, NDS and corporate-wide initiatives.
I’m so honored to receive the Steve Butterfield Leadership Award. I have had the privilege to work with so many talented, smart people at Nelnet that have helped me grow. My career has truly been built from those I have had the good fortune to work with. I will forever be grateful.
Beyond her core responsibilities, Natalie also serves on Nelnet’s Enterprise Culture Council, Charitable Contributions committee, and the NDS Premier Employer committee. Natalie also takes an active role in her community, serving on several nonprofit boards, including Leadership Aurora (Colo.), Junior Achievement, and Aurora Public Schools Career & Technical Education (CTE). In 2020, she was nominated by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce for the Unsung Hero Award, which honors women who make a substantive, yet unrecognized contribution in their community or business.
Natalie’s importance to Nelnet – and her merits for winning the award – are best captured by comments from some of her closest peers:
It’s impossible for me to truly put into words the kind of leader Natalie has been over her forty-year career at Nelnet. She is committed to strengthening the team culture and trusts all her team members, just as we trust her. She believes in the members of her team and creates opportunities for them to learn and stretch their abilities.
Natalie possesses a genuine and caring nature, always going the extra mile to ensure the well-being and happiness of those around her. Her selflessness is evident through her willingness to assist others without hesitation, constantly lending a helping hand whenever needed. She also has a keen business mindset, always analyzing situations strategically and making insightful business decisions that benefit both the company and our associates.
I count on Natalie to help us through our biggest initiatives. She can find a starting point in the complex and guide us toward getting things done. Natalie is respected and loved by so many in NDS. She really is the heart of the segment.
If you talk to anyone who works with Natalie, you know your project is going to be successful because she’s part of it. It’s not that she does all the work to make projects successful, rather Natalie makes all the members of the project that much better by pushing them to perform at their best, challenging their thoughts and their limits, and driving people to think and work differently.
Steve Butterfield loved helping others to, ‘See your future. Be your future.’ He made everyone around him better and was able to coach us up. This is something that Natalie repeatedly does for those around her – providing sage guidance, with honest, direct feedback to help those around her be their best. Her dedication to making everyone around her better is truly inspiring.
Natalie’s nomination was selected from 23 submissions for strong and inspiring leaders across Nelnet. While each nominee was deserving of consideration, Nelnet’s Executive Team, which is comprised of the company’s top five executive leaders, selected Natalie thanks to the repeated mention of traits and attributes that Steve Butterfield would be proud to work alongside.