The Heinz Awards Review - Winter 2011

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The Heinz Awards pay tribute to the memory of Senator H. John Heinz III by celebrating those who embrace, as he did, the joyous American belief that individuals have both the power and responsibility to change the world for the better.

As a reminder of the virtues of hard work, determination, excellence and a broad vision for the future, the Heinz Family Foundation annually recognizes a special group of individuals for their outstanding contributions.

the heinz
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teresa heinz

kim o’dell
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carole smith
heinz awards review

photographs by
robin barrett
james brantley
mark bryant
carlye calvin
kelly campbell
nicole cotton
beverly hall
dede hatch
evan hurd
jim mcquaide
brennan wesley


Hoping their stories inspire others toward a path of innovation, invention and creativity, Teresa Heinz recently honored 10 Americans for their environmental work, marking the 17th Heinz Awards ceremony to commemorate the life and contributions of her late husband, U.S. Sen. John Heinz. The elegance of Washington D.C.'s Folger Shakespeare Theater provided the backdrop for honoring a wide-ranging group of recipients who have set their sights on promoting a sustainable future for us all.

"Each Heinz Award winner this year is a seeker – either of knowledge, or innovation, or both. They are the type of people who refuse to rest until they have pushed back the boundaries of science, technology and human thought,” Mrs. Heinz said. "With so much extraordinary work behind them, these recipients have all demonstrated a willingness to set the bar as high as they can reach. We are proud to honor their accomplishments. And we hope their stories will inspire others to follow, as they have, wherever the truth may lead."

To honor their achievements and help them further their goals, Mrs. Heinz awarded each recipient an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000 and a silver Heinz Award medallion that bears the likeness of Sen. Heinz, whose passion for the outdoors fueled his tireless efforts to preserve and protect the environment for future generations. This was the third year the Heinz Awards created a special focus on the environment. Winners were chosen who address the intersection of the environment with one of the other award categories recognized in many previous years, including arts and humanities, human condition, public policy, technology, the economy and employment.

Vartan GregorianVartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, opened the evening's program with a heart-felt introduction of his friend, Teresa Heinz, who for eight years had served as a trustee on the Carnegie Corp. board. She accepted the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy on behalf of the Heinz family in 2007.

"In the future, as tomorrow's champions of the environment look back, they will say that they have no greater ancestry in the fight to keep our planet green, strong and thriving than Teresa Heinz," Dr. Gregorian said.

He credited her childhood in the lush beauty of Mozambique with fostering her lifelong love of – and respect for – the natural world. "As a child of nature, she developed an independent spirit, a curiosity about the world around her and a respect for all living things, animals and for the sanctity of the environment and the need to protect it for future generations," he said. Watch Dr. Gregorian's introduction to Mrs. Heinz here.

Joining Mrs. Heinz at the event was her son, André Heinz, a member of the Heinz Awards Board of Directors, and her husband, U.S. Sen. John Kerry. Several past recipients attended the presentation and reception, including James Balog, Dr. Paul Anastas, Dr. Lynn Goldman, Lois Gibbs and Dr. John Holdren. There were also several members from the congressional and diplomatic communities in attendance, along with founders and officials from several national environmental organizations.

Meet our 17th Heinz Award awardees below, and click through to their profile pages to see their acceptance speeches and bio videos.

John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams' early days in Alaska were devoted to preserving the environmental integrity of the region. But in time, the breathtaking vistas inspired his unique musical compositions that connect millions of Americans to nature. Referred to as the "environmental composer," Mr. Adams has written works that often reflect the environmental, cultural and spiritual elements of the sweeping, vast wilderness of Alaska. He has influenced a wave of young composers and he is representative of those in the arts who are trying to find ways to translate and reflect the importance of the environment.

Richard Alley

By studying two-mile long polar ice core samples, Richard Alley, Ph.D., discovered that the last Ice Age came to a quick end over just a three-year period. He broke open the field of abrupt climate change and posits the implications it might have for our future. His accessible style of teaching at The Pennsylvania State University has earned him awards for instructing both non-scientists and for engaging advanced students in the rigorous study of climate and ice physics. Earlier this year, Dr. Alley hosted a PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy called Earth: The Operators’ Manual.

Janine Benyus

Janine Benyus introduced many people to a new way of thinking about design engineering by offering insight into how products and manufacturing methods can be improved by borrowing from nature’s forms and functionality. Through her Missoula-based Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry Guild, she has worked with NASA, corporations, universities, design groups, architectural firms and non-profit organization to draw from nature’s own designs, processes and strategies to find ecological solutions to our biggest challenges.

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis

As best friends at Yale University, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis started down the path of the sustainable food movement that quickly led them to the distinction of being the youngest ever Heinz Award recipients. These Brooklyn-based activists have had a varied journey that includes starring in the award-winning documentary, King Corn, turning a 1986 pickup truck into an edible, mobile garden that teaches schoolchildren about healthy eating and most recently helping to establish FoodCorps, a national organization geared at transforming the food children eat in schools.

Louis Guillette

As a researcher who has studied alligators to reveal groundbreaking insight into the impact toxic chemicals may have on human health, Louis Guillette, Ph.D., has earned international recognition. These studies have led to evidence that environmental contaminant exposure has an effect on reproductive anatomy, genetics and the physiology of wildlife. As a teacher and mentor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, Dr. Guillette is a leader the field of comparative reproductive biology and developmental endocrinology.

Joan Kleypas

Joan Kleypas, Ph.D., has conducted seminal research on how changes in temperature and in seawater chemistry and acidity have impacted coral reefs. Through her studies at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, she has also identified ways to bolster coral reef health so that the critically important ocean organisms can survive climate changes. Dr. Kleypas' work has led to reforms by policymakers that will help protect our water for years to come.

Nancy Knowlton

Now at the of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., Nancy Knowlton, Ph.D., has had a lifelong focus on the ecology, evolution and conservation of coral reefs. As one of our country's leading marine biologists, she has broadened our understanding of ocean biodiversity and the impacts of humans on marine life. She conveyed the beauty and importance of marine life – and made it accessible to millions – in her popular book, Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life.

Nancy Rabalais

Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D., has been the driving force behind identifying and characterizing the dynamics of the low oxygen area or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico — the largest dead zone affecting the United States and second largest worldwide. Because dead zones can significantly impact regional fishing economies and the health of coastal environments, Dr. Rabalais' work is key to restoring oceans so that both marine and human life can thrive. She heads the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin, La.

Sandra Steingraber

Diagnosed with bladder cancer at 20, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., traced its cause to growing up in an area polluted by industrial toxins. Now, as a scholar in residence at Ithaca College, she has dedicated her career as a biologist and ecologist to finding links between toxic chemicals and diseases, as well as urging the government to protect its citizens. Her book, Living Downstream, which chronicles her personal history, has reached thousands with its message of action and hope.


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