Heinz Awards Honor 5 Americans

The Heinz Family Foundation on Sept. 9 announced the recipients of the 14th annual Heinz Awards, among the largest individual achievement prizes in the world.

The $250,000 awards recognize significant accomplishments in five distinct categories – the arts and humanities; the environment; human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy and employment. Each area was of particular interest to John Heinz, the late U.S. Senator for whom the awards are named.

The recipients, in their respective categories, are Arts and Humanities: Ann Hamilton, 52, visual artist and educator, from Columbus, Ohio; Environment: Thomas FitzGerald, 53, founder and director of the Kentucky Resources Council, from Louisville, Ky.; Human Condition: Brenda Krause Eheart, Ph.D., 64, founder of Generations of Hope and Hope Meadows, from Champaign, Ill.; Public Policy: Robert Greenstein, 62, founder and executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, from Washington, D.C.;

Technology, the Economy and Employment: Joseph DeRisi, Ph.D., 38, molecular biologist, researcher and inventor, from San Francisco, Calif.

The following is a synopsis of this year's environment recipient:

Environment: The founder and director of the Kentucky Resources Council – dubbed the "watchdog of the environment" within the Bluegrass state – Thomas FitzGerald has been an influential force in improving the environmental landscape within his home state and nationwide.

An authority on the enforcement of the national Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the federal law designed to protect against the adverse environmental and societal effects of surface coal mining operations, FitzGerald has dedicated his life's work to helping citizens and organizations within Kentucky and across the country secure full and fair implementation of policies intended to safeguard their health, safety, and quality of life. His influence also extends well beyond issues related to coal. Working always pro bono, he has helped draft ordinances to protect communities from sewage sludge disposal and factory hog farms as well as negotiated environmental protections related to brownfield redevelopment, the siting of new power plants, solid and hazardous waste management and renewable energy and energy efficiency.

After earning his law degree, FitzGerald worked as a law clerk and environmental specialist for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, and in 1984, reshaped the Kentucky Resources Council, providing free legal assistance on environmental matters, pursuing environmental advocacy and making the name "Fitz" synonymous with environmental protection in Kentucky. He regularly carries a caseload of individual cases where communities or individuals are threatened by air, land, or water pollution but are unable to represent themselves. He also is looking toward the future. He has developed plans for an environmental leadership training program designed to cultivate the next generation of environmental watchdogs and create teams of volunteers to assist citizens and communities impacted by pollution.

In addition to the $250,000 award for their unrestricted use, recipients are presented with a medallion inscribed with the image of Sen. Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other. The awards will be presented at a private ceremony on Oct. 21.

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