The John W. Gardner Leadership Award was established in 1985 to honor outstanding Americans who exemplify the leadership and the ideals of John W. Gardner (1912-2002), American statesman and founding chair of Independent Sector. Independent Sector presents the award each year to an individual whose leadership in or with the nonprofit community has been transformative and who has mobilized and unified people, institutions, or causes that improve people’s lives.
John W. Gardner was the ultimate builder of ideas, people, and causes. He was an active and distinguished participant in America's educational, philanthropic, and political life. His many achievements stand as a tribute to the ideals this award celebrates. He was the president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Carnegie Corporation of New York; Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; Chairperson of the National Urban Coalition; and founding chairperson of Common Cause. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil honor, in 1964. From 1978 to 1979, he chaired the Organizing Committee that established Independent Sector, served as the group's founding chairperson from 1980 to 1983. Prior to his death, John W. Gardner served as a consulting professor at the School of Education at Stanford University.
Each year, Independent Sector works with people across America’s nonprofit sector to identify a recipient who is a beacon of achievement. Winners of the Gardner Award provide models for future members of our sector, and recognizing them strengthens and uplifts our entire community.
Learn more about the life of The Life of John W. Gardner.
The John W. Gardner Leadership Award recognizes living Americans working in or with the nonprofit community whose leadership has been transformative and who have mobilized and unified people, institutions, or causes that improve people’s lives. The award honors visionaries who have empowered constituencies, strengthened participation, and inspired movements.
Award recipients are builders -- people who, quite apart from personal achievements, have raised the capacity of others to advance the common good. Their leadership has either had national or international impact or, if at the regional level, has attracted wide recognition and imitation. Gardner Award recipients, who may be of any age, may be the creators of needed institutions or may concentrate on education and advocacy that changes public opinion. Whatever means they use, their work has transformed their chosen field and has served as a role model to other fields.
The winner must be present at the award ceremony, which will be held at Independent Sector’s National Conference in New York September 29-October 1, 2013.