Foege Receives Allen Prize for Social Courage

During a ceremony held this afternoon at The Biltmore, the Georgia Institute of Technology honored William H. Foege with the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage. Foege, a transformational leader in global health policies helped eradicate smallpox and other diseases worldwide, was presented the award at the conclusion of the two-day Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Founder’s Day annual celebration. 

William Foege Honored Image 2
Click image to enlarge

William H. Foege is the 2012 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage. Foege, a transformational leader in global health policies helped eradicate smallpox and other diseases worldwide, was presented the award at the conclusion of the two-day Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Founder’s Day annual celebration.

“There are people in every generation who, by the course of their convictions and a sense of duty to mankind, change history, and in doing so, change the future,” said Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson. “Dr. Foege is one such man. We are honored to present him with the Allen Prize.”  

The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage recognizes individuals such as Foege who, by standing up for clear moral principles in the social arena, have positively affected public discourse at the risk of their own careers, livelihoods and even their lives. The Prize is supported in perpetuity through a commitment by the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation.

To see Foege's speech from the event, visit http://www.iac.gatech.edu/news-and-events/annual-founders-day/videos/2012.

During a career spanning 60 years, Foege championed domestic and international health policies emphasizing disease eradication and control, and issues of child survival and development, injury prevention, population control, preventive medicine, and public health leadership, particularly in the developing world.  Through leadership roles at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Carter Center and the Task Force for Child Survival, Foege guided early response to the HIV/AIDS crisis; oversaw the eradication of Guinea worm disease, polio and measles, and the elimination of river blindness overseas; and advocated policies that vastly accelerated childhood immunization in developing countries. He is also credited with bringing to life visions for global health at both The Carter Center and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Like former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., Dr. Foege has envisioned a better world and created communities for realizing that dream in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems,” said Jacqueline J. Royster, dean of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.  “His courage to do the right thing and his steadfastness, sometimes in the face of staunch opposition, has saved millions of lives and reshaped the global dialog about what is possible in health and social progress.”

As a young epidemiologist working in Nigeria in the 1960s, Foege discovered the power of the surveillance/containment vaccination strategy for eradicating smallpox.  He braved civil war there to ensure that the last pocket of the disease was eliminated.  Elsewhere in Africa and India, he overcame resistance to the new vaccination strategy, ultimately enabling the world to rid itself of this devastating disease.

Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 to head the CDC, Foege enlarged the organization’s mandate beyond infectious diseases to encompass the full spectrum of human health.  In 1984, Foege co-founded the Task Force for Child Survival and Development as a working group for the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the Rockefeller Foundation. The forerunner of today’s Task Force for Global Health, the Task Force under Foege increased childhood immunizations worldwide from 20 percent to 80 percent, and expanded its mandate in 1991 to engage challenges such as malnutrition and hunger.

Foege remains active in many organizations.  He is on the Advisory Board for the Emory University Global Health Institute and is a professor emeritus, at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.  He attended Pacific Lutheran University, earned a medical degree from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Health from Harvard University.

More information on the Allen Prize can be found at the following link: http://ivanallenprize.gatech.edu/home/.

Editors Note: On April 26, 2012, President Obama named Foege as a recipient of the Presidental Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.