Vandenberg Prize honors David Beasley, former director, UN World Food Programme


Vandenberg Award Recipient: David M. Beasley, Executive Director (former) of the U.N. World Food Programme

Hillman/Orr Award Recipients: Sonja Johnson, Executive Director, Van Andel Global Trade Center, Grand Valley State University Kenda Kuo, Director – Grand Rapids Office, U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) announces the recipient of its fourth Vandenberg Prize—which goes to a national or international leader who has been influential in developing global understanding and collaboration on the world stage. The first three prizes were awarded to Ambassador (ret.) Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. (2020); General (ret.) James N. Mattis (2021); and Ambassador (ret.) Marie Yovanovitch (2022).

The recipient of the 2023 Vandenberg Prize is David Beasley. Until this spring, he was the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP was the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergency and using food assistance to build a pathway to leave, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.

The Vandenberg Prize is named after Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg (1881-1951) and was the inspiration for founding the Council in 1949 by Grand Rapids attorney (and later Federal Judge) Douglas Hillman and businessman Edgar Orr. In addition, the Council will present the annual Hillman-Orr Award to a West Michigan individual or institution that mirrors the intent of the Council’s founding leaders to bring global awareness and international understanding to the West Michigan community.

The 2023 recipients will be Sonja Johnson, the executive director of the Van Andel Global Trade Center at Grand Valley State University and Kendra Kuo, the Grand Rapids office director of the U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce. Together, Sonja and Kendra have been the driving forces of countless programs, events, and conversations with businesses about global trade in the region, culminating in the annually anticipated and well-attended Michigan World Trade Week every May in Grand Rapids.

Hillman and Orr were inspired by the life and work of Senator Vandenberg, an isolationist who became a strong advocate of internationalism in the wake of World War II. Vandenberg forged bipartisan support for the Marshall Plan and NATO and was appointed one of the first U.S. delegates to the brand-new United Nations. Senator Vandenberg has always been considered the “patron saint” of the Council.

The Council is grateful for a formational gift by The Meijer Foundation to launch this special recognition of the importance of global connectedness to West Michigan. Longtime World Affairs Council corporate supporters Amway and Bank of America are also major sponsors.