2014 Winners

TECHNOLOGY

HUGH HERR

Hugh Herr, who heads the biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, has been doing revolutionary work for years in the field of biomechatronics. He has developed a computer-controlled knee and a robotic ankle-foot that mimics a natural gait. He is being honored for his team’s development of a bionic leg so precisely functional it put a ballroom dancer back on the dance floor less than a year after she lost part of her left leg in the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013.

This award was presented by William Gadsby, U.S. Marine Corporal.

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EDUCATION

MAX KENNER

As an undergraduate at Bard College, prison-reform activist Max Kenner founded the Bard Prison Initiative. Today, he has turned BPI into the nation’s benchmark program for access to higher education behind bars. BPI now operates in six New York state prisons, bringing Bard professors to inmates who earn B.A. degrees. Kenner has demonstrated that the recidivism rate for New York state prisoners who earn a B.A. is less than 2 percent—versus more than 70 percent for inmates across much of the United States.

This award was presented by George Pelecanos, crime novelist, writer, and producer of HBO's "The Wire".

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VISUAL ARTS

JANET ECHELMAN

Janet Echelman transforms urban spaces with monumental yet fluid sculptures made from materials ranging from woven fiber to atomized mist. As they respond to the forces of nature—wind, water and light—these sculptures invite the people traveling below, around or through them to experience their surroundings in new ways. She is being honored for her 2014 works, including Impatient Optimist, an installation under construction on the campus of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, and Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, which spanned 745 feet of Vancouver airspace during the 2014 TED Conference last March.

This award was presented by Daniel Libeskind, founder and principal architect of Studio Daniel Libeskind.

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HISTORICAL SCHOLARSHIP

BILL MORRISON

As a New York City-based filmmaker, Bill Morrison transcends the documentary form, using found footage to create genre-defying experiences of history. The Great Flood, based on recovered newsreel coverage from 1927, recreates an eyewitness view of the catastrophe in the Mississippi River Valley. Eight of his films are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, where a mid-career retrospective of his work was on view in 2014.

This award was presented by Beau Willimon, creator/showrunner of Netflix's "House of Cards."

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NATURAL SCIENCES

STEVE RAMIREZ & XU LIU

Steve Ramirez, a graduate student in neuroscience at MIT, and Xu Liu, a postdoc in the same lab, made head- lines when, using laser beams and light-sensitive proteins, they implanted a false memory into the brain of a mouse—the first time a memory had been manipulated in that fashion in an animal. The goal is to understand how memories form, where they are stored and, perhaps one day, find a way to help people suffering from such afflictions as Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This award was presented by Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

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SOCIAL PROGRESS

KIMBERLY BRYANT

Kimberly Bryant is the founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE, the nation’s first group devoted to teaching computer programming and technology to girls of color. Now in seven U.S. cities (and Johannesburg, South Africa), with plans for eight more chapters in the next year, BGC aims to help close the digital divide by reaching one million girls by 2040. Bryant, an engineer with a long career at pharma- ceutical and biotech companies, also serves on the National Champions Board for the National Girls Collaborative Project and the K-12 Alliance Board of the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

This award was presented by Kaya Henderson, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

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PERFORMING ARTS

ROSANNE CASH

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Rosanne Cash has recorded 15 albums and charted 11 No. 1 country singles. She is being honored for her latest album, The River & the Thread, an 11-song travelogue based on a series of car trips she took with her husband, producer-guitarist John Leventhal, to retrace the geography of her forebears across the American South. Playing like a travelogue through time, space and place, one music critic wrote of the albumn, “Rosanne Cash paints her masterpiece.”

This award was presented by T Bone Burnett, music producer.

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PHYSICAL SCIENCES

FRANCIS HALZEN

Francis Halzen, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the mastermind behind IceCube, a giant particle detector buried beneath the ice at the South Pole. It’s designed to spot the signatures of nearly massless particles called neutrinos that zoom toward Earth at ultrahigh energies when black holes in distant galaxies swallow a star or when superdense stars collide. Recently, when Halzen and his team reported the first detections of these cosmic messengers, they were praised for opening a new era in astronomy—and in our understanding of the physical universe.

This award was presented by Stephen Hawking, professor, University of Cambridge, Centre for Mathematical Studies.

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YOUTH

PALMER LUCKEY

Palmer Luckey was 16 years old when he began working with the world’s most sophisticated virtual reality technology, Oculus Rift, a project that he began in his parents’ garage. Luckey’s revolutionary head-mounted display succeeds where countless other attempts failed: It is fully immersive, having overcome technological challenges like combining a realistically wide field of vision with low enough “drag” to make virtual movement nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. The real-world applications are boundless, including education, engineering, architecture, medical training, and treatment for those with disorders such as post-traumatic stress.

This award was presented by Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC, and co-founder, America Online.

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