The World Food Prize Foundation

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn

The World Food Prize Foundation

Dr. Kenneth M. Quinn, former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, assumed the leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation on January 1, 2000, following his retirement from the State Department after a 32 year career in the Foreign Service.

Inspired by the vision of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, Ambassador Quinn has endeavored to build this annual $250,000 award into the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”

With the support of the John Ruan family, Ambassador Quinn led the campaign that successfully raised over $30 million to restore the historic Des Moines Public Library and transform it into the World Food Prize Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates.  

More recently, he served as Chairman of the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee, which raised the funds and selected the artist to create the statue of Dr. Borlaug, which was unveiled on March 25, 2014 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

During his diplomatic career, Ambassador Quinn served: on the National Security Council staff at the White House; at 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, the humanitarian campaign that sent Iowa doctors, nurses, medical supplies and food to starving Cambodian refugees.  
A fluent speaker of Vietnamese, Dr. Quinn 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.

Elected as a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, Ambassador Quinn has received numerous national honors and awards for his actions in multiple dangerous and violent situations. Among them are:

  • The Secretary of State’s Award for Heroism and Valor for the four lifesaving rescues in which he participated during the war in Vietnam, as well as his efforts to protect American citizens exposed to danger in Cambodia;
  • Being the only civilian to receive the U.S. Army Air Medal for his participation in helicopter combat operations in Vietnam;
  • White House Meritorious Honor Award for his work on behalf of refugees from Indochina; and
  • The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in accounting for POW/MIAs

In his role as president of the World Food Prize, Amb. Quinn has received the following honors, all the highest level national award that these organizations present:

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

On May 30, 2014, Dr. Quinn became only the 23rd person in Iowa history to receive the prestigious Iowa Medal, the state’s highest citizen award, joining such illustrious Iowans as: President Herbert Hoover, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, Professor George Washington Carver, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Norman Borlaug.  

Ambassador Quinn, a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, has a M.A. in Political Science from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Maryland. He and his wife Le Son have three adult children.

View photos of Amb. Quinn receiving the Army Air Medal.


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