PITTSBURGH, April 23, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Heinz Family Foundation today announced the winners of the 20th Heinz Awards, which will present unrestricted cash awards totaling $1.25 million to six exceptional Americans for their creativity and determination in finding solutions to critical issues both here and abroad.
This year's recipients include a prolific cartoonist whose quirky characters depict the anxieties of modern-day life and personal relationships; two former Marines who are re-engaging veterans in a new purposeful mission of global disaster relief; an environmental scientist forging a new understanding of pollution's health effects on pregnant women and their children; a bioengineer applying innovative methods, including microfabrication and nanotechnology, to develop artificial human "microlivers" and cancer diagnostics tools; and a geoscientist using evidence-based research, problem-solving and cultural sensitivity to negotiate disputes over shared waters emphasizing cooperation over conflict.
"These remarkable men and women come from different fields and diverse backgrounds, but they share a bedrock conviction in their ability and responsibility as individuals to make a transformative impact on the world and the lives of others. They offer an inspiring reminder that the most precious kind of change always comes from those who see past today's limitations to a world of new possibilities and discoveries," Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, said today. "So many people around the world, often with far fewer resources than we have here, strive in ways large and small to change their lives and communities for the better. They deserve our admiration, but even more they deserve our willingness to embrace the greater responsibilities made possible by the opportunities this country gives us. Our recipients this year have stepped up to that special responsibility. Their ingenuity and persistence demonstrate that America's can-do spirit is alive and well. In a world thirsty for hope, we are all better for their efforts, and for what their example tells us about the vast human potential waiting to be tapped in all of us."
Created to honor the memory of the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, and now in its 20th year, the Heinz Awards program recognizes remarkable contributions in five distinct areas of great importance to Senator Heinz: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment.
This year's recipients by category are:
- Arts and Humanities: Roz Chast, Ridgefield, Conn.
The Heinz Awards recognizes Ms. Chast, best-selling author and prolific illustrator and cartoonist with a genius for finding humor and a shared humanity in the confounding situations we face every day. Her iconic drawings have won a devoted following in The New Yorker among other popular publications. In her 2014 graphic memoir "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?," Ms. Chast chronicles caring for her elderly parents in their final years. She details the realities of aging and end-of-life care—from dealing with the tragic effects of dementia to managing the high costs of elder care to reconciling her own personal feelings of guilt, exhaustion and love. The book provides an unflinching look at the increasingly common struggles faced by adult children caring for parents as they age and lose their health and independence. The book received the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography and was named a finalist for the nonfiction National Book Award.
- Environment: Frederica Perera, DrPH, Ph.D., New York, N.Y.
The Heinz Awards recognizes Dr. Perera, founder and director of the Columbia (University) Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH), for her decades-long research to illuminate the health consequences children suffer from prenatal and childhood exposures to hazardous chemicals, for the benefit of parents, health professionals and policymakers. Dr. Perera's team at CCCEH is renowned for its Mothers and Newborns Study, which tracks a large group of children in the United States, specifically in New York City, from womb through adolescence, and for its parallel studies in Poland and China. The research examines how environmental toxicants invade young bodies, causing changes at the molecular level that have been linked to cancer, asthma and neurobehavioral problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Backed by her research findings, Dr. Perera has become an influential advocate for the health and economic benefits of reducing prenatal and childhood exposures to toxic environmental contaminants.
- Human Condition: (co-recipients) William McNulty and Jacob Wood, Team Rubicon, Los Angeles, Calif.
The Heinz Awards recognizes Mr. McNulty and Mr. Wood, former U.S. Marines and founders of Team Rubicon, for re-engaging thousands of veterans in a new service, disaster emergency response. The goal is twofold: to harness the skills of veterans to deliver humanitarian aid following disasters while fostering a community and sense of purpose for veterans who often feel isolated, adrift and a continued desire to serve. Trained to be nimble and adaptable, the volunteers are able to seize the critical window between disaster onset and the arrival of conventional relief agencies to save lives almost immediately. Since their first effort in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti, Team Rubicon has deployed emergency response teams in disaster zones spanning four continents and 11 countries, including Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan and across the United States. Its largest mission to date was providing relief to those New York City neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Now a 25,000-member volunteer network in the United States, Team Rubicon is also extending its model to other countries, including Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom, through a new organization called Team Rubicon Global.
- Public Policy: Aaron Wolf, Ph.D., Corvallis, Ore.
The Heinz Awards recognizes Dr. Wolf, geoscientist and professor at Oregon State University, for applying 21st century insights and ingenuity, as well as ancient wisdoms, to negotiate disputes over shared bodies of water, arguably the planet's most precious resource, helping to move parties from a place of entrenched conflict to peaceful cooperation. From international water talks in Southeast Asia and Africa to domestic dialog on the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty and elsewhere in the Western United States, his success in blending scientific rigor with humanism to create water cooperation is a case study in how to promote global sustainability and resource security. Dr. Wolf is also working to prepare future generations of scholars and leaders in this field. He joined other leading academics to found a consortium of 10 universities on five continents that seeks to build a global water governance culture focused on peace, sustainability and human security.
- Technology, the Economy and Employment: Sangeeta Bhatia, M.D., Ph.D., Cambridge, Mass.
The Heinz Awards recognizes Dr. Bhatia, an innovative scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who applied the principles of microchip fabrication to develop artificial human "microlivers" now widely used to screen drugs for toxicity. In addition to her breakthrough with microlivers, Dr. Bhatia is developing simple, affordable cancer screening tools. One uses tiny particles or "nanoparticles" that can create "biomarkers" for cancer in urine samples on paper strips. The other is a "cancer-detecting yogurt" containing engineered probiotic bacteria that could provide evidence of the spread of liver tumors of colorectal cancer in mere urine samples. Dr. Bhatia is also a strong proponent of attracting more women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields. She helped found an outreach program, Keys to Empowering Youth, which is working on college campuses to attract young girls to engineering.
Winners will receive their awards at a ceremony in Pittsburgh on May 13th, 2015.
Now in its 20th year, the Heinz Awards has recognized 123 individuals and awarded more than $21 million to the honorees. For more information about awardees visit http://heinzawards.net/2015.
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 celebrates 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, 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. The jurors make recommendations to the Board of Directors, which subsequently selects the Award recipients. For more information on the Heinz Awards, visit heinzawards.net.
SOURCE The Heinz Family Foundation