Established in 1985 to honor IS founding chair John W. Gardner, the annual award recognizes an individual whose leadership in the nonprofit community has been transformative; who has mobilized people, institutions, or a cause that improves the lives of others; and who exemplifies the leadership and ideals of the award's namesake.
Born in a segregated environment in Delaware, Stevenson established Alabama-based Equal Justice in 1989 to provide legal services to low-income defendants and prisoners who had been wrongly convicted, denied effective representation, or whose trials had been marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. His passionate advocacy for reform of the criminal justice system began years before it became a topic of national debate and discussion and earned him recognition as one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in 2015 and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award in 1995. A graduate of Eastern College (B.A., '81), Harvard Kennedy School of Government (M.P.P., '85), and Harvard Law School (J.D., '85), he is the author of several books, including the recent New York Times bestseller Just Mercy.
"Bryan Stevenson's impact on our society is prophetic," said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. "His commitment to stand with young people and the poor to demand justice in our criminal justice system has helped to improve the lives of individuals, communities, and our nation."