2015 Heinz Awards honor authors, humanitarians and healers
Longtime cartoonist Roz Chast drew on the emotionally draining experience of caring for her aging parents during their final days to produce an evocative memoir that just helped nab her a $250,000 prize.
“If I can get through it, anybody can get through it,” said Chast, a cartoonist for The New Yorker since 1978 who will discuss her book Thursday night in Oakland at an event hosted by the Mt. Lebanon-based Family Hospice & Palliative Care. “It’s hard and it’s sad, and there are moments that it’s funny, too.”
She is one of six individuals sharing $1.25 million in prize money as recipients of the 2015 Heinz Awards.
Chast, 60, of Connecticut clinched the competition’s arts and humanities category with her “genius for finding humor and a shared humanity” in daily life.
The Heinz Awards accepts anonymous nominations from a pool of 500 people with expertise across five award categories.
“The nominators are tasked with finding people who are doing amazing, excellent work in their fields, figuring out how to address the challenges that face our society in various ways and coming up with solutions that others can replicate,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments, a separate entity from the Heinz Family Foundation. He helped with the latest round of Heinz Awards at the request of Teresa Heinz, who formed the Heinz Family Foundation in 1993 to honor her late husband, U.S. Sen. John Heinz.
Foundation staff whittled hundreds of nominations down to a group of finalists, Oliphant said. Then a jury of 12 experts selected the winners.
Here are the 2015 recipients in the remaining categories:
• Environment — Frederica Perera of New York, founder and director of Columbia University Center for Children’s Environmental Health, for her research examining long-term health problems tied to prenatal and childhood exposure to hazardous chemicals.
• Human condition — William McNulty and Jacob Wood, both of Los Angeles and former Marines, for founding Team Rubicon. The humanitarian aid organization has deployed emergency response teams made up of veterans to disaster zones in 11 countries. The 25,000-volunteer network in the United States is being modeled in Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom.
• Public policy — Aaron Wolf of Oregon, a geoscientist and professor at Oregon State University, for his work promoting peace, human security and sustainability by negotiating disputes over shared bodies of water, including international talks in Southeast Asia and Africa and domestic dialogue over the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty.
• Technology, the economy and employment — Sangeeta Bhatia of Massachusetts for her breakthrough in developing artificial human “micro-livers” used to screen drugs for toxicity, and for her work developing simpler, more affordable cancer screening tools.
The Heinz Family Foundation has doled out more than $21 million in prize money to 123 individuals over the award program’s 20-year history. For details, visit HeinzAwards.net/2015/.