U of M Educator honored with $250K Heinz award

PITTSBURGH - A University of Minnesota educator is one of just five people being honored this year by the Heinz Family Foundation for their work to improve the world through innovations in the arts, science, public policy, technology, and economics.

The $250,000 awards announced Tuesday were given to Jonathan Foley of St. Paul, Minn.; Abraham Verghese, of Stanford, Calif.; Salman Khan, of Mountain View, Calif.; Sanjeev Arora, of Albuquerque, N.M.; and Leila Janah, of San Francisco.

Foley, who is a professor and director of the U of M Institute on the Environment, says he was first surprised, and then honored by his selection as many of his heroes were previously honored by the Heinz Foundation. He tells KARE 11 that a group or individual nominated him for his body of work in the field of environmental science, a committee researches the work of all candidates, and then winners are selected by a jury. Foley has no idea who nominated him.

Professor Foley was told that he was selected as a recipient of the honor for four reasons.

  • His long-standing history of working on global environmental studies and ecosystems.
  • His studies of agriculture and its impact on the environment.
  • Efforts in public science communications, taking research and discoveries made by the scientific community and working to share those findings with the general public in an enlightening and meaningful manner.
  • His work in mentoring young scientists and encouraging their development.

Foley laughed when asked how he'd use the $250,000 award, saying he had "no idea."

The awards were established in 1993 to honor the memory of U.S. Sen. John Heinz, the Pennsylvania Republican who was killed in a midair aircraft collision in 1991.

Foundation chairman Teresa Heinz Kerry says the awards show that imagination, determination and creativity are antidotes for the uncertainties and fears of the times.


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