World Jewish Congress 
Theodor Herzl Award
Virtual Gala

Theodor Herzl is the father of modern political Zionism and credited as the founder of the state of Israel. Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1860, Herzl moved to Paris in 1891. The antisemitic atmosphere he experienced there led him to believe that only by establishing a Jewish state could Jews bring about an end to antisemitism. In 1897, Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

Established in 2012, the World Jewish Congress’ Theodor Herzl Award is the organization’s highest honor, recognizing outstanding individuals who work to promote Herzl’s ideals for a safer, more tolerant world for the Jewish people through international support for Israel and enhanced understanding of Jewish history, culture, and peoplehood.

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This Year’s Honorees

Theodor Herzl Award Recipient

H.E. Mr. António Guterres

Secretary-General of the United Nations

António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, took office on 1st January 2017.

Having witnessed the suffering of the most vulnerable people on earth, in refugee camps and in war zones, the Secretary-General is determined to make human dignity the core of his work, and to serve as a peace broker, a bridge-builder and a promoter of reform and innovation.

Prior to his appointment as Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, heading one of the world’s foremost humanitarian organizations during some of the most serious displacement crises in decades. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Yemen, led to a huge rise in UNHCR’s activities as the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution rose from 38 million in 2005 to over 60 million in 2015.

Before joining UNHCR, Mr. Guterres spent more than 20 years in government and public service. He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, during which time he was heavily involved in the international effort to resolve the crisis in East Timor.

As president of the European Council in early 2000, he led the adoption of the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, and co-chaired the first European Union-Africa summit. He was a member of the Portuguese Council of State from 1991 to 2002.

Mr. Guterres was elected to the Portuguese Parliament in 1976 where he served as a member for 17 years. During that time, he chaired the Parliamentary Committee for Economy, Finance and Planning, and later the Parliamentary Committee for Territorial Administration, Municipalities and Environment. He was also leader of his party’s parliamentary group.

From 1981 to 1983, Mr. Guterres was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he chaired the Committee on Demography, Migration and Refugees.

For many years Mr. Guterres was active in the Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic political parties. He was the group’s vice-president from 1992 to 1999, co-chairing the African Committee and later the Development Committee. He served as President from 1999 until mid-2005. In addition, he founded the Portuguese Refugee Council as well as the Portuguese Consumers Association DECO, and served as president of the Centro de Acção Social Universitário, an association carrying out social development projects in poor neighborhoods of Lisbon, in the early 1970s.

Mr. Guterres is a member of the Club of Madrid, a leadership alliance of democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world.

Mr. Guterres was born in Lisbon in 1949 and graduated from the Instituto Superior Técnico with a degree in engineering. He is fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. He is married to Catarina de Almeida Vaz Pinto, Deputy Mayor for Culture of Lisbon, and has two children, a stepson and three grandchildren.

Teddy Kollek Award For The Advancement Of Jewish Culture Recipient

Zubin Mehta

Music Director Emeritus, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Zubin Mehta was born in 1936 in Bombay and received his first musical education under his father’s Mehli Mehta’s guidance who was a noted concert violinist and the founder of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. After a short period of pre-medical studies in Bombay, he left for Vienna in 1954 where he eventually entered the conducting programme under Hans Swarowsky at the Akademie für Musik. Zubin Mehta won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition in 1958 and was also a prize-winner of the summer academy at Tanglewood. By 1961 he had already conducted the Vienna, Berlin and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras and has recently celebrated 50 years of musical collaboration with all three ensembles.

Zubin Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1967 and also assumed the Music Directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962, a post he retained until 1978.

In October 2019 he celebrated his farewell with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to which he has served for 50 years as Music Director. On this occasion he was named Conductor Emeritus of the IPO.

In 1978 he took over the post as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic commencing a tenure lasting 13 years, the longest in the orchestra's history. From 1985 to 2017 he has been chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.

Zubin Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor with Tosca in Montreal in 1963. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala Milano, and the opera houses of Chicago and Florence as well as at the Salzburg Festival. Between 1998 and 2006 he was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In October 2006 he opened the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia and was the President of the annual Festival del Mediterrani in Valencia until June 2014 where he conducted the celebrated Ring cycle with the Fura del Baus in coproduction with the Florence opera house. Other Ring cycles were completed at the Chicago Opera and the Bavarian State Opera.

Zubin Mehta's list of awards and honours is extensive and includes the

"Nikisch-Ring" bequeathed to him by Karl Böhm. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997, of the Bavarian State Opera in 2006 and of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien in 2007. The title of “Honorary Conductor” was bestowed to him by the following orchestras: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (2001), Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (2004), Los Angeles Philharmonic (2006), Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (2006), Staatskapelle Berlin (2014) and Bavarian State Orchestra (2006), with whom he performed in Srinagar, Kashmir in September 2013. In 2016 the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples appointed Zubin Mehta as Honorary Music Director and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic honoured him in 2019 as Conductor Emeritus.

In October 2008 Zubin Mehta was honoured by the Japanese Imperial Family with the “Praemium Imperiale”. In March 2011 Zubin Mehta received a special distinction, in getting a star on the Hollywood Boulevard. The Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was bestowed to him in July 2012. The Indian Government honoured him in September 2013 with the “Tagore Award for cultural harmony” which a year earlier was awarded to Ravi Shankar.

Zubin Mehta continues to support the discovery and furtherance of musical talents all over the world. Together with his brother Zarin he is a co-chairman of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Bombay where more than 200 children are educated in Western Classical Music. The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv develops young talent in Israel and is closely related to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as is a new project of teaching young Arab Israelis in the cities of Shwaram and Nazareth with local teachers and members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Past Herzl Award recipients

2019

Ambassador Nikki R. Haley

Nikki R. Haley is the former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She served as a member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet and the National Security Council. 

At the United Nations, Ambassador Haley introduced reforms that made the organization more efficient, transparent, and accountable. She challenged human rights violators across the globe, standing up to oppressive regimes in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia. During the U.S. presidency of the UN Security Council, she hosted the first-ever session devoted solely to promoting human rights. She traveled the world visiting people oppressed by their own governments to see firsthand the challenges they face and to work with them directly on life-improving solutions. 

During her time as ambassador, the United States stood proudly with its allies, repeatedly taking a principled stand against the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. In the UN Security Council, and she proudly issued the first American veto in six years defending the United States’ sovereign right to move our Embassy to Jerusalem—Israel’s capital. 

Prior to becoming the twenty-ninth U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Haley was elected in 2010 as the first female and first minority Governor of South Carolina. Reelected in 2014, she served as governor of the state until she confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in January of 2017.

2019

Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel was sworn in as Chancellor on November 22, 2005. She is the first woman and the first East German to hold this office.

In presenting the Theodor Herzl award to Chancellor Merkel, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder underscored the progress made in post-war Germany to rebuild itself and eradicate its dark past. “You, Chancellor Merkel, are the icon of this incredible success. You are the symbol of all that is good in post-war Germany,” Lauder added. “You are the guardian of democracy, the guardian of civilization and the guardian of Europe… you have always supported the Jewish community in this country. You have always stood by Israel ... you are a German leader who has become a one-person dam. A dam against instability. A dam against irrationality. A dam against extremism. A dam against hate. A dam against racism. A dam against antisemitism.”

2018

Lord Jacob Rothschild and Baron David de Rothschild, on behalf of the Rothschild family

Lord Rothschild served as chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the Rothschild Foundation in Israel, for the last 36 years. His daughter Hannah has now taken over this role, but he remains involved as President. He is Chairman of the Rothschild Foundation in the United Kingdom, which maintains the Waddesdon Manor, a Rothschild property, in addition to a number of other projects in the UK. In the USA he served as Chairman for the Pritzker Prize for Architecture and received the Getty Medal in Los Angeles 2014.

For his work on Israel and Jewish causes, he was given an Honorary Degree by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was made an Honorary Fellow of the City of Jerusalem and of the Israel Museum. He was awarded the Weizmann Award in the Sciences and Humanities on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel. In 2004, he received the Sir Winston Churchill Award by the British Technion Society.

In the UK he served as Chairman of Trustees of the National Gallery, as Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which distributed over £1bn to good causes during his period of office. In business life, he was a founder of Global Asset Management and St James’s Place Capital. He continues to serve as Chairman of RIT Capital Partners, the investment trust company.

In 2002 he was Awarded the Order of Merit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; members of this Order are limited in number to 24, and the order is given to those who have rendered exceptionally meritorious service in the field of the arts, learning, literature, and science.

2017

General Colin L. Powell

For over fifty years, General Colin L. Powell, (Ret) has devoted his life to public service. Having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations, his deep commitment to democratic values and freedom has been felt throughout the world.

Powell received a commission as an Army second lieutenant in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of Four-Star General. Among the many U.S. Military awards and decorations he has received are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. He is also the recipient of numerous civil awards, including two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and has received honors from more than twelve countries.

From 1987 – 1989 Powell served as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He served from 1989 – 1993 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and for President Bill Clinton, the youngest officer to ever serve in the position and also the first African-American to do so. Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State.

Powell is the Chair of the Board of Visitors of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at his alma mater, the City College of New York (CCNY). He is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the America’s Promise Alliance, dedicated to forging strong and effective partnership alliance committed to seeing that children have the fundamental resources they need to succeed.

Powell is a Strategic Advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and serves on the Board of Directors of Bloom Energy and Salesforce.com. Powell serves on the Museum Council of the Smithsonian Institute’s African American Museum of History and Culture and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He is the author of two best-selling autobiographies: My American Journey and It Worked for Me.

2016

Vice President Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After the Biden family moved to Claymont, Delaware, he graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School and served on the New Castle County Council. At age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate.

Just weeks after the election, Biden's wife, Neilia and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed and their two young sons critically injured in an auto accident. Vice President Biden was sworn in to the U.S. Senate at his sons' hospital bedside and began commuting to Washington every day by train from Delaware, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate.

As a Senator from Delaware, Vice President Biden established himself as a leader in facing some of our nation's most important domestic and international challenges. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, then-Senator Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. He has been at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

As the 47th Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden was tasked with implementing and overseeing the $840 billion stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has helped to rebuild our economy and lay the foundation for a sustainable economic future.

As a longtime advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence, the Vice President appointed the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. The Vice President had also been tasked with leading interagency efforts to reduce gun violence and raise the living standards of middle class Americans in his role as Chair of the Middle Class Task Force.

With decades of foreign policy experience, Vice President Biden advised President Obama on a myriad of international issues. He has been a leading architect of the U.S. strategic vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. During his time in the Senate, the Vice President led the effort to enlarge NATO to include the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. In the Middle East, the Vice President has been deeply involved in shaping U.S. policy toward Iraq and has championed Israel’s security.

In 1977, Vice President Biden married Jill Jacobs. The Vice President’s son, Beau (1969-2015), was Delaware's Attorney General from 2007-2015 and a Major in the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq in 2008-2009. The Vice President’s other son, Hunter, is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and Chairman of the World Food Program USA. His daughter Ashley is a social worker and Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Justice. Vice President Biden has five grandchildren.

2015

Secretary George P. Shultz

A native of New York, George Shultz graduated from Princeton University in 1942, and after serving in the Marine Corps (1942-45), he earned a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Shultz taught at MIT and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where he became dean in 1962.

He was appointed Secretary of Labor in 1969, Director of the Office of Management and Budget in 1970, and Secretary of the Treasury in 1972.

From 1974 to 1982, he was President of Bechtel Group, Inc. Dr. Shultz served in the Reagan administration as Chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Advisory Board (1981-82) and Secretary of State (1982-89). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.

Since 1989, he has been a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is Honorary Chairman of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Chair of the Precourt Institute Energy Advisory Council at Stanford, Chair of the MIT Energy Initiative External Advisory Board, and Chair of the Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy at the Hoover Institution.

Dr. Shultz’s most recent books are Issues on My Mind: Strategies for the Future (2013), and Game Changers: Energy on the Move (2014). His memoir Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State was published in 1993.

2015

Lord George Weidenfeld

Born in Vienna in 1919, The Right Honourable Lord George Weidenfeld, GBE left Austria for England in 1938, and during World War II, he worked with the BBC Overseas Service. In 1948 founded the publishing firm, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, with Nigel Nicolson and the next year was appointed to be the Political Advisor and Chef de Cabinet in Israel to President Weizmann, spending a year in this capacity.

A British citizen since 1946, Lord Weidenfeld was knighted in 1969 and created a Life Peer in 1976. From 1992 to 1994, he was Vice-Chairman of the University of Oxford Campaign and since 1994, Vice-President of the Oxford University Development Program.

He received several honorary degrees from universities across Europe including the Diplomatic College Vienna and the University of Exeter.

Lord Weidenfeld held the German Knights Commanders Cross (Badge & Star) of the Order of Merit (1991), the Austrian Cross of Honour First Class for Arts and Science in 2002, the Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the County of Vienna in 2003, the Italian Grand Officer of the Order of Merit in 2005, and the Order of Merit of the Land Baden-Württemberg 2008. In 2009 he received the Teddy Kollek Life Achievement Award in Jerusalem, and the Polish Foreign Minister awarded him with the Bene Merito distinction in 2011.

Lord Weidenfeld was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 2011, and in 2012 he received the Tolerance Ring of the European Academy of Science and the Arts in Frankfurt.

Among other appointments, he was the Chairman of Weidenfeld & Nicolson; President of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue; Honorary Chairman, Board of Governors, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; member of the Board of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; and columnist for Die Welt, Bild am Sonntag and Huffington Post.

Lord Weidenfeld passed away on January 20, 2016 and is survived by his spouse Lady Annabelle Whitestone and daughter Laura Weidenfeld.

2014

Secretary Henry A. Kissinger

Dr. Henry Alfred Kissinger was born in Fuerth, Germany, came to the United States in 1938, and was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1943. He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946, and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1950, and further received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University in 1952 and 1954, respectively.

Dr. Kissinger was sworn in on September 22, 1973, as the 56th Secretary of State, a position he held until January 20, 1977. He previously served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from January 20, 1969, until November 3, 1975, and in July 1983, he was appointed by President Reagan to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America until it ceased operation in January 1985, and from 1984-1990 he served as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. From 1986-1988 he was a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy of the National Security Council and Defense Department. He has served as a member of the Defense Policy Board since 2001.

Among the awards Dr. Kissinger has received have been a Bronze Star from the U.S. Army in 1945; the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973; the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the nation’s highest civilian award) in 1977; and the Medal of Liberty (given one time to ten foreign-born American leaders) in 1986.

Dr. Kissinger is married to Nancy Maginnes and is the father of two children by a previous marriage.

2014

President Ronald Reagan (posthumously)

In the words of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library, On the last day of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, as he was walking out of the White House to his limousine for the ride to the Capitol, a White House aide looked at the President, and with tears in his eyes quietly said: “There will never be another one like him.”

Every president is unique, of course, but there was just something special about the man. Yet even people who knew Ronald Reagan well often had difficulty describing him. Optimistic but not naïve. Articulate but not glib. Intelligent yet guided by common sense. Well mannered but never pretentious. Friendly but not a pushover. Charismatic but real. Principled but not intransigent.

He was all of that and so much more. Perhaps the key to understanding Ronald Reagan is to realize his two defining characteristics – he genuinely liked people, and he was comfortable with who he was. That may not sound like much, but when you’re President, it makes all the difference.

2014

Axel Springer (posthumously)

In the words of WJC Treasurer Chella Safra, Axel Springer, was more than just an influential publisher, or a media tycoon, as we would call him today. He was also an opinion leader. He was also a man of strong convictions, a moral leader who never shied away from controversy.

Yet even those who strongly disagreed with him then will probably accept that he left a lasting mark on post-war Germany. For he was more than just a defender of Israel here in Germany, he was a real friend, an active supporter. He was somebody for who reconciliation was more than just a word. It was a deeply held conviction.

In June 1966, when Axel Springer paid the first of more than 30 visits to Israel. At that time, before the Six Day War, Jerusalem was a divided city, as was Berlin. He met with the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. Both men strongly believed in the reunification of their cities.

In 1966, Springer built his headquarters here right next to the Berlin Wall, in the center of the city, with a view over the terrifying No Man’s Land towards East Berlin. Kollek also refused to move his municipality headquarters in Jerusalem away from the Green Line, as some suggested.

The following year, 1967, Jerusalem was reunited. Axel Springer would not live to see the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened four years after his death in 1985, but his vision also became reality when Communism fell and Berliners could finally reunite.

2013

Elie and Marion Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now a part of Romania. He was fifteen-years- old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz; his mother and younger sister perished, his two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.

After the war, Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. During an interview with the distinguished French writer, François Mauriac, he was persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps. The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, La Nuit or Night, which has since been translated into more than thirty languages.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel as Chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980 he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and he is also the Founding President of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures. Wiesel has received over one hundred honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.

A devoted supporter of Israel, Wiesel also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentina’s Desaparecidos, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, victims of famine in Africa, victims of apartheid in South Africa, and victims of war in the former Yugoslavia.

Wiesel was the author of more than sixty books of fiction and non-fiction. For his literary and human rights activities, he has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, and the rank of Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor. In 1986, Wiesel was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, and a few months later, Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Wiesel passed away July 2, 2016 in New York and is survived by his wife Marion and his son Elisha Wiesel, and two grandchildren.

2012

President Shimon Peres

In the words of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, Shimon Peres was a statesman, ninth President of the State of Israel, Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a man of action and vision.

Shimon Peres was a founding father of Israel. From the early years of its establishment, he was central in its defense - from spearheading deterrence and defense capabilities and developing the IDF, to establishing the Dimona reactor and Sorek Nuclear Research Center. He worked tirelessly for decades to promote peaceful relations within Israel and between Israel and its neighbors, and he led Israel to become a global technology and innovation powerhouse.

World Jewish Congress
Teddy Kollek Award For The Advancement Of Jewish Culture

Established in 2016, the World Jewish Congress Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture is presented during the organization’s annual Theodor Herzl Award gala. The Kollek Award honors exceptional individuals whose lifetime achievements have embraced and perpetuated Jewish roots, values, and heritage; instilled a sense of pride and identity in the next generations of Jews; and exhibited a deep and abiding connection to the state of Israel.

Teddy Kollek Award For The Advancement Of Jewish Culture

2019

Joel Grey

Joel Grey, is best known for his Tony and Academy Award-winning performance as the Emcee in Cabaret, is the multi-award-nominated director of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish and a co-director of the Tony Award-winning production of The Normal Heart. Other Broadway credits include, George M, Chicago, Wicked, and Anything Goes. Joel is also an internationally exhibited photographer with five published books, and his work is part of the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

2018

Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft is the founder, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, based in Foxborough, Mass. The Kraft Group is the holding company of the Kraft family's many businesses, including the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Boston Uprising, Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place, International Forest Products, Rand-Whitney Group, Rand-Whitney Containerboard and a portfolio of more than 100 private equity investments.

Kraft began his business career with the Rand-Whitney Group, Inc. of Worcester, Mass. In 1972, he founded International Forest Products (IFP), a trader of paper commodities that now does business in more than 90 countries. IFP has consistently ranked among the top exporters in North America according to the annual rankings published by The Journal of Commerce, climbing to fifth in 2017.

Kraft is widely recognized as one of the most successful owners in professional sports. In his first 24 years of ownership (1994-2017), the Patriots recorded the highest winning percentage (.698) of any team among the nation’s five major professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL). Since 1994, the Patriots have won more games, playoff games (30), division titles (17), conference titles (9) and Super Bowl championships (5) than any other team in the NFL. Kraft also built a privately-financed, world-class sports and entertainment complex with the construction of Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place. Gillette Stadium is one of the only modern stadiums built without personal seat licenses, saving season ticket members tens of thousands of dollars.

Over the past five decades, the Kraft family has been one of New England's most philanthropic families, donating hundreds of millions of dollars in support of local charities, civic affairs and health care. The Kraft family donated $25 million to Partners HealthCare and its affiliate, Massachusetts General Hospital, to establish the Kraft Center for Community Health, an initiative designed to develop solutions for the most difficult health problems. The Kraft Center services include a mobile health program with a CareZone mobile van, which offers opioid addiction treatments and other health care services in underserved communities throughout Boston. The Kraft family also committed $20 million to Harvard Business School to establish the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator, an initiative to pursue programs to realize the potential of precision medicine in care of cancer and other serious diseases.

In 2015, Kraft and the Patriots partnered with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to launch a high school anti-violence education initiative. To date, the Game Change program has provided training in violence prevention for more than 1,700 students, faculty and coaches in over 120 high and middle schools statewide.

2017

Given posthumously to George Stevens accepted by his son, George Stevens, Jr.

George Stevens was one of America’s legendary film directors, perhaps the one with the most distinctive and diverse career. He is best known for what is often called his ‘American trilogy’ which earned him two Academy Awards – A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953) and Giant (1956) – but his work spans comedies, romance, musicals, and drama.

Stevens left Hollywood for three years during World War II to head combat motion picture photography for General Eisenhower, capturing memorable images of D-Day, the advance through Normandy, the Liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge and the discovery of the concentration camps at Nordhausen and Dachau. Lt. Colonel Stevens prepared two films as evidence for the war crimes trials at Nuremberg.

Stevens was raised by his actor parents in San Francisco and got his first break in the movies at age 24 as cameraman and a gag writer for Laurel and Hardy. He learned from Stan Laurel that “comedy could be graceful and human.” He was thirty when Katharine Hepburn asked him to direct Alice Adams, which led to Oscar nominations for her and the picture. He went on to direct what many regard as the finest Astaire-Rogers film, SwingTime, the timeless and seminal adventure epic Gunga Din, and many of the brightest and truest romantic comedies, including Vivacious Lady, The Talk of the Town, Penny Serenade, The More the Merrier and Woman of the Year.

He returned from World War II with a changed sensibility to make I Remember Mama, his ‘trilogy,’ and then produce and direct what he called his ‘war film,’ The Diary of Anne Frank. Steven Spielberg called it a masterwork, noting that Stevens used his clout to make Hollywood’s first film dealing with the Holocaust. “We admire Stevens today,” Spielberg said, “because he never rushed his images, casting long spells on us, only asking us to be patient with him—and when we were, he would reward us with one indelible moment after the other.”

In addition to Academy Awards for A Place in the Sun and Giant, Stevens received the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award from the Motion Picture Academy “for consistent high quality of production,” as well as many awards from the Directors Guild of America, including the D.W. Griffith Award for his distinguished career.

Stevens posthumously received the Kollek Award in 2017, almost thirty-years after his death in 1975.

2016

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas is a legendary actor, producer, author and philanthropist who is credited with 87 films, 10 plays and 11 books.

In 1942 he interrupted his budding stage career to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. After the war he returned to Broadway where he caught the attention of Hollywood when he was cast opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. He later appeared as the cynical boxer in Stanley Kramer’s Champion, which won him both stardom and his first of three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (The Bad and the Beautiful, Lust for Life).

Douglas starred in the first Hollywood feature film to be shot in the newly established state of Israel and would later immortalize American Jewish Army Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus, remembered as Israel’s first modern general who helped to save the Jewish state in 1948, in the epic film Cast A Giant Shadow.

Douglas was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter (1981), the American Film Institute’s prestigious Life Achievement Award (1991), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Award “for contributions to U.S. cultural life (1995),” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Oscar for “50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community (1996),” and the Presidential Medal of the Arts from President Bush.

His autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, published in 1988, received rave reviews and became an international best-seller. In 2009, he returned to the stage to perform in four sold out performances of his one man autobiographical show Before I Forget at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California. In 2014 he completed his eleventh book, Life Could be Verse.

Douglas passed away February 5, 2020, survived by his wife Anne and three children.