Established in 1993 to honor Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), who was killed in a plane crash in 1991, the awards recognize extraordinary individuals for their creativity and determination in finding solutions to critical issues in five areas that were important to 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 recipients are Natasha Trethewey, a two-time U.S. poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and memoirist whose work explores the complex history of racial and social inequity in the American South and the memories of her own experiences growing up in Mississippi as the daughter of an African-American mother and a white father; ecologist Gregory Asner, who pioneered techniques that measure the chemistry, structure, and biodiversity of forests — and the impact of deforestation, land degradation, mining, and climate change on forests and ecosystems — through high-tech satellite and aircraft imaging instrumentation; Angela Blanchard, who is being recognized for more than thirty years of community development work based on her belief that neighborhoods should be defined by their resources, achievements, and hopes, not by their degree of need or brokenness; pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, a public health policy advocate whose work includes efforts to expose elevated levels of lead in children living in Flint, Michigan, and renew awareness of the critical health issues created by preventable lead exposure and water supply infrastructure deficiencies around the country; and chemist Joseph DeSimone, an expert in polymeric materials whose work merges life, physical, and engineering sciences with the goal of fostering innovation in how things are made in order to improve the human condition.
"This year's awardees are exemplary models of the powerful changes for good that can be attained when outstanding talent, skill, and achievement are aligned with a passion for people and planet," said Heinz Family Foundation chair Teresa Heinz. "Although their fields of endeavor are very different, each of the men and women that we honor has demonstrated remarkable persistence in the face of barriers, and an unwavering determination to develop solutions that contribute to a healthier world, a more just society, and a more vibrant economy. At a time when rancor and divisiveness threaten to divide us, their grace and generosity in sharing and applying the knowledge they have gained reminds us all that people's capacity for good remains, and that there is much more we can achieve. This is the true spirit of the Heinz Awards."