The World Food Prize Foundation

Chairman Emeritus John Ruan celebrates 95th birthday


February 2, 2009 - Chairman Emeritus John Ruan celebrates 95th birthday


February 2, 2009 - - World Food Prize Chairman Emeritus John Ruan will celebrate his 95th birthday on February 11.

The noted Des Moines businessman and philanthropist is responsible for rescuing the future of the World Food Prize and establishing the World Food Prize Foundation.

In 1990, just three short years after its inception, the future of the World Food Prize was in jeopardy.

Corporate restructuring at General Foods ended financial support for the Prize and Dr. Norman Borlaug once again had to find a sponsor. This time, his search led him home to Iowa and toward a partnership that would forever change the World Food Prize.


John Ruan on the World Food Prize

"It is my goal that each year the World Food Prize will gain in stature - not to compete with the Nobel but to bring greater awareness of the critical issue of food security throughout our world."
1994 Laureate Award Ceremony

"I am proud, and I know you are, that together we've been able to bring the World Food Prize to Iowa and share it with the world."
1996 Laureate Award Ceremony

"There is no question in anyone's mind that, while we could get by without automobiles, without television, without radios, without many other things - but the one thing we can't get along without is food, and we think that the World Food Prize spurs people on to do greater things in the development of food."
1998 Laureate Award Ceremony


When Dr. Borlaug and then World Food Prize Chairman Al Clausi met with Ruan at the Des Moines Club, it was an instant partnership.

Ruan, who like Dr. Borlaug was born in a small town in Iowa in 1914, had built a national trucking empire (more on the Ruan company HERE). A long-time Des Moines activist, Ruan had a long-standing vision that Iowa should be seen as the agricultural capital of the world.

Clausi and Borlaug’s proposal struck a resonant cord with Ruan. The following spring, he announced his intent to bring the Prize to Iowa, thereby securing its future.

“I pledge my own energies and resources to these real-life heroes of our day whose work not only touches the soil but also touches the hearts of all mankind,” Ruan said at a 1990 press conference. “By assuming sponsorship of the World Food Prize, we can create a most appropriate nurturing environment for it right here in what is often called ‘the nation’s breadbasket.’”

The World Food Prize Foundation was created in Des Moines and the Ruan Family Trust endowed the World Food Prize with $10 million.

Much to the delight of Iowa native Norman Borlaug, the World Food Prize had found a new home.

“Without John Ruan and the family that gave this whole-hearted support from the beginning, there probably wouldn’t be a World Food Prize,” said Dr. Borlaug.

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