Kravis Prize in Leadership to Honor Helen Keller International


CLAREMONT, Calif.— Claremont McKenna College announced that Helen Keller International, an organization whose mission is to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition, has won the ninth annual Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. The Kravis Prize carries a $250,000 award and recognizes extraordinary leadership in the nonprofit sector. Kathy Spahn, president and CEO of Helen Keller International, will be presented with The Kravis Prize during ceremonies on March 13, on the CMC campus. The prize celebrates the accomplishments of its recipients and shares best practices with others.

Founded in 1915 by Helen Keller and George Kessler, Helen Keller International (HKI) is among the oldest international nonprofits devoted to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. Headquartered in New York City, HKI works in 22 countries around the world. In the U.S., Helen Keller International combats vision impairment by providing impoverished and at-risk school children free vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses, in many cases mitigating poor academic performances. Its screening programs in Los Angeles County have resulted in over 216,000 vision screenings and close to 22,000 pairs of free prescription eyeglasses to school children in need.

"It is an incredible honor and a privilege to have been selected for the Kravis Prize," said Spahn. "In addition to recognizing the successes we have achieved in saving sight, improving health and reducing child mortality, this award celebrates the importance of sharing the practices behind those successes so that the impact of the work—saving sight and lives—can be multiplied."

"Helen Keller International's worldwide expansion benefitting the most vulnerable populations is a testament to HKI's real and measurable impact," said Henry R. Kravis '67, co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., and founder of the Kravis Prize. "There is much to be learned from Helen Keller International's transformative and encouragingly successful work. Their research in nutritional blindness more than four decades ago revealed how something as simple as a vitamin A capsule could mean the difference between sight or blindness––between life and death," Mr. Kravis said.

Marie-Josee Kravis, chair of the Kravis Prize Selection Committee, said HKI's leadership in this area has been pivotal. "This nonprofit's irrepressible, extraordinary human spirit is only matched by its dedication to the exceptional work continued by its torch bearers, despite challenging realities. We are grateful for their remarkable work to change lives all over the world, including the lives of young people right here in U.S."

HKI has been reducing blindness and child mortality through the distribution of vitamin A capsules to children and lactating mothers around the world since 1972. Last year alone, HKI reached 50 million children in Africa and Asia by providing them twice-yearly life- and sight-saving treatments of vitamin A, for just $1 per child per year. The World Health Organization estimates that vitamin A supplementation reduces deaths in children ages 6 to 59 months by nearly 25 percent.

In addition to vitamin A and mineral supplementation, Helen Keller International works to prevent blindness by training medical staff to perform corrective surgeries to treat bacterial eye infections and in fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Its Homestead Food Production program teaches gardening and nutritional self-sufficiency and has benefited more than one million households in Africa and Asia. Together, HKI's cost-effective programs are preventing malnutrition and infections and diseases, restoring vision, improving learning opportunities, and reducing mortality rates among millions of the world's most vulnerable people.