Established in 1993 to honor Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), who was killed in a plane crash in 1991, the awards — among the largest prizes for individual achievement in the world — recognize significant accomplishment in five areas that were important to Senator Heinz: the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment. Each honoree will receive an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000.
This year's award recipients are Mason Bates, a composer with the Chicago and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras who is working to dissolve the traditional boundaries of classical music and bring symphony orchestras into the digital age; Richard J. Jackson, a pediatrician and public health physician at the University of California, Los Angeles who has sparked a national conversation about the links between the physical design of communities and rising health risks; Freeman Hrabowski, who as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has increased the representation of minority students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors and created a model of inclusive excellence in education for all STEM students; KC Golden, who as policy director of Climate Solutions has advocated for policies that promote sustainable prosperity, cut climate pollution, and build a clean energy economy; and Jay Keasling, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and pioneer in synthetic biology who has engineered micro-organisms to operate as cellular "factories" and produce compounds with real-world applications.
"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," said Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation. "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."