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Iowa Icons: Ambassador Kenneth Quinn

Photo by Ben Nuelle.

AUDIO: Kenneth Quinn, President of World Food Prize Foundation

Kenneth M. Quinn is the President of the World Food Prize Foundation. Before working at WFP, Quinn spent 32 years working for the U.S. State Department. He served as the Ambassador to Cambodia under the Clinton Administration from 1995 – 1999. He began working for the WFP in January 2000.

According to worldfoodprize.org, Quinn has helped raise over $30 million to restore the old Des Moines Public Library into the World Food Prize Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates. Due to his efforts and major contributions from agribusiness and Iowa philanthropists, people from all over the world visit the hall.

Borlaug’s passion to help and feed others sparked a passion in Quinn to continue Borlaug’s legacy by continuing to award the “Nobel Prize for food and agriculture” known as the “World Food Prize”.

As a diplomat, Ambassador Quinn served on the National Security Council staff at the White House; the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Vienna; as Chairman of the U.S. Inter-agency Task Force on POW/MIAs; and as Director of Iowa SHARES, he headed the humanitarian campaign that sent Iowa doctors, nurses, medical supplies and food to starving Cambodian refugees.

He is a fluent speaker of Vietnamese and he acted as interpreter for President Gerald Ford at the White House and personally negotiated the first ever entry by U.S. personnel into a Vietnamese prison to search for U.S. POW/MIAs. He was also a member of the first U.S. team to gain entry to a former Soviet prison in Russia.

As WFP President, Ambassador Quinn has received many honors. These are the highest level awards the following organizations present:

  • The American Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award;
  • The FFA Distinguished Service Citation;
  • The Crop Science Society of America Presidential Award
  • The AFA Leadership in Agriculture Award

In early 2017, Quinn received the Global Leadership in Agriculture Award presented by the Indian Council on Food and Agriculture , and the George Washington Carver Distinguished Service and Innovation Award.

Quinn became the 23rd person in Iowa history to receive the prestigious Iowa Medal which is the state’s highest citizen award on May 30, 2014. He joins illustrious Iowans including: President Herbert Hoover, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Professor George Washington Carver, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Norman Borlaug.

Quinn was born in New York City in 1942 and later graduated high school and college in Dubuque.

The annual 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium takes place in downtown Des Moines October 18 – 20.

*Information for this article was gathered from worldfoodprize.org*