PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation today announced the winners of the 18th annual Heinz Awards, honoring five outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions in five areas: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment. Each honoree will receive an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000.
This year's winners include a distinguished classical/modern music composer, an advocate for smarter community design, a champion of diversity in science education, a leading pioneer of synthetic biology and an architect of responsible climate policies.
"The spirit of the Heinz Awards has never felt more relevant or more important than it does right now. At a time when so much of our public discourse is about limits and the barriers to action, and when so many of our public institutions seem bogged down by vitriol and ideology, our five recipients stand as a testament to the American spirit of possibility and to the enduring power of individuals to help solve even our most seemingly intractable problems," Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, said today. "While others focus on what we can no longer do, these five focus on what we can do and have redefined the limits of possibility in spheres ranging from music to medicine, science, the environment and education. They embody the best in all of us and the promise for a brighter future."
The awards program was established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz. The belief in the power of the individual to improve the lives of others is a quality exemplified by John Heinz, and an attribute the awards program was created to honor. "The most important investments – and the most profitable," he once said, "are investments in people."
The winners, in their respective categories are:
- Arts and Humanities: Mason Bates, Ph.D., Composer, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, from San Francisco, Calif.
- Environment: Richard J. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, from Los Angeles, Calif.
- Human Condition: Freeman Hrabowski, III, Ph.D., President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, from Baltimore, Md.
- Public Policy: KC Golden, Policy Director, Climate Solutions, from Seattle, Wash.
- Technology, the Economy and Employment: Jay Keasling, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, Berkeley; CEO, Joint BioEnergy Institute; Associate Laboratory Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, from Berkeley, Calif.
Short descriptions of this year's recipients, by category:
Arts and Humanities: Mason Bates' award-winning compositions combine an expanded orchestral palette, often including electronic sounds, with large-scale, imaginative narrative forms that approach topics ranging from earthquakes to energy. Through widespread performances by symphonies around the country, his music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the traditional boundaries of classical music. The Julliard-trained Mr. Bates currently serves as the Mead Composer-In-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for whom he both composes new works and curates the MusicNOW series. He was named the 2012-2013 Composer of the Year of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and frequently works with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. A visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, Mr. Bates acts as both composer and DJ in his classical/club project Mercury Soul, which integrates classical performances into an evening of electronica in venues ranging from clubs to warehouses to Frank Gehry-designed concert halls. At 35, Mr. Bates is one of the youngest-ever recipients of a Heinz Award.
Environment: Richard J. Jackson, a pediatrician and public health physician, has sparked a national conversation about the relationship between the physical design of communities and rising health risks, such as respiratory ailments and obesity. His research into this connection and willingness to speak out about his findings are fueled by a passion to safeguard the health of children, who he believes are most at risk from poorly designed built environments. Dr. Jackson's warnings, once considered controversial, have been borne out repeatedly by studies documenting airborne particulate levels, a reduction in physical fitness of children and rising rates of obesity and diabetes. He has become a leading voice for reinserting health considerations into decisions about urban, suburban and transportation design programs, rallying mayors, planners, architects and the public to re-envision communities that are good for people and the planet. Dr. Jackson hosts the four-part public television series, Designing Healthy Communities, that is currently being broadcast nationally. His earlier work in California and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has included groundbreaking initiatives to monitor agricultural chemical exposures and other environmental contaminants in the American public.
Human Condition: Since arriving at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Freeman Hrabowski has not only increased the representation of minority students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors, but has also created a model of inclusive excellence in education for all STEM students. Alongside Baltimore philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, Dr. Hrabowski helped create a program to provide scholarships and intensive mentoring to African American men interested in math and science. The program has been an overwhelming success since its inception and was expanded to include all students who are interested in the advancement of minorities in the sciences. To date, the UMBC program, which is being emulated by other colleges and universities, has graduated more than 800 students in the sciences and nearly doubled the total number of science majors. UMBC has become one of the nation's leading universities for producing African American bachelor's degree graduates who go on to complete STEM Ph.D.s.
Public Policy: For close to three decades, KC Golden has been working to develop policies that promote sustainable prosperity, cut climate pollution and build the clean energy economy. He sets his sights on regional action in order to drive progress on climate policy from the bottom up, demonstrating that climate solutions help build stronger local economies and healthier communities. As an advisor to Northwest Governors and Mayors, Mr. Golden played a pivotal role in launching state and local climate leadership initiatives, including the Western Climate Initiative and the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Mr. Golden has brought together major regional industries and clean energy pioneers – including world leaders in aviation, software, renewable energy and building systems – to advance economically attractive regional solutions. Seattle magazine has named him its #1 Eco Hero.
Technology, the Economy and Employment: As the driving force behind the emerging field of synthetic biology, Jay Keasling has engineered micro-organisms to operate as cellular "factories" and produce compounds with real-world applications. Combining molecular biology and genetic engineering in dramatic new ways, Dr. Keasling created an affordable method for the mass-production of artemisinin, a plant-derived, life-saving anti-malarial drug for use in developing countries. It was important to Dr. Keasling that artemisinin be affordable for children and adults in those countries, so he made the patent available to nonprofits royalty-free for that use. Expanding on the principles of his earlier work, he is now applying his research to other applications such as biofuels – including a carbon-neutral alternative jet fuel made from sugar. The compounds he is synthesizing from natural sources could replace petroleum products in many instances and promise to be both less polluting and more sustainable. Dr. Keasling has co-founded three companies and leads the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, Calif.
About the Heinz Awards
Established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of the Senator by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him.
The awards, administered by the Heinz Family Foundation, annually recognize individuals for their contributions in the areas of: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment.
Nominations are submitted by invited experts, who serve anonymously, and are reviewed by jurors appointed by the Heinz Family Foundation. Award recipients are ultimately selected by the Board of Directors.
In addition to the monetary award, recipients are presented with a medallion inscribed with the image of Senator Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other. The Heinz Awards will be presented at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pa. on October 11. For more information about the Heinz Awards or the recipients, including photographs, visit www.heinzawards.net.
SOURCE Heinz Family Foundation