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The Kravis Prize Comes to Claremont

Posted July 31, 2013 in News

By Claudia Raigoza ’14

This past April, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) was abuzz as the college hosted the Eighth Annual Award Ceremony and Dinner for the 2013 Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership . As with most events of this nature, a large part of the attendees and participants were students. Rising senior Tawney Hughes ’14 got involved with the marketing aspect of the event, feeling compelled to spread the word after the 2012 award ceremony. She shared her thoughts on the nature of the event, saying, “For me, the Kravis Prize has to be the culmination of the most exciting event to take place on CMC’s campus.” That it is, indeed. She describes an inevitable “buzz and whirr” around campus “that only comes from the prestige and honor of having some of the most influential and inspirational leaders in the world, all on our small and beautiful campus.”

Established in 2006, the Kravis Prize, as it is commonly known, conducts a rigorous due diligence and selection process to choose an annual recipient. The Prize aspires to identify extraordinary leaders in the nonprofit sector, celebrate their accomplishments, and share their best practices with others. The formal Award Ceremony celebrates the recipient’s accomplishments and $250,000 is directed to a nonprofit organization designated by the recipient.

The 2013 Kravis Prize recipient is Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and social entrepreneur. In 2000, Koss founded the nonprofit, Right to Play. Through sports and games, this global organization helps children build essential life skills and better futures, while driving social change in their communities with lasting impact. Right to Play works in the most disadvantaged areas of the world, engaging girls, persons with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, street children, former child combatants, and refugees.

During his final semester at CMC, Harrison Doyle ’13 had the opportunity of hosting Mr. Koss during his visit to the college. Doyle describes his time with Mr. Koss as, “…probably the most memorable day from my four years at Claremont…” The two were paired in part by Sarah Smith Orr, a professor of Doyle’s and Executive Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute, based on Doyle’s own vision of a future social venture that involves selling sports apparel to fund the construction of soccer fields in African schools as a means of increasing school attendance and participation.

What best describes Mr. Koss? –”incredibly inspiring and altruistic; just a remarkably selfless individual who used his own success and fame to launch himself into the social realm in order to help others.” Furthermore, Koss was “kind and candid” throughout their day together, offering his new mentee “advice and wisdom” in their conversations. Doyle concludes, “It was almost hard to believe I was hanging out with an Olympic Gold Medalist and company CEO.”

The Kravis Prize draws in so many CMC students because it provides a forum to combine the many facets of a CMCer. Rising senior Benjamin Feldman ’14 describes the balancing act of juggling school, work, and everything in between:  “My life as a student can often feel fragmented,” he says, “constantly being torn between my academic studies, career ambitions, and personal interests.” Feldman served as a moderator during a discussion with Mr. Koss, which he describes as “a chance to align all three pillars of my life as a student, I was ecstatic to fill the role.”

Right To Play reaches 1 million children and youth through weekly activities, and has trained nearly 12,000 volunteer coaches and 5,000 Junior Leaders to help run its weekly programs. It also is supported by a network of more than 300 Athlete Ambassadors––professional and Olympic athletes from more than 40 countries, including ice hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky and retired U.S. basketball player Dikembe Mutombo.

As previously mentioned, Harrison Doyle has a big social venture in mind, but he has also gotten involved in other projects. Namely, he just returned from a two week trip to Uganda where he did some volunteer work with his family and Pepperdine University Law School’s Global Justice Program. Once there, he went to a juvenile prison in Fort Portal, Uganda to deliver food and a soccer ball to the boys and girls. The fun, he says, came from playing soccer with the kids for about 30 minutes—what he describes as “a real treat for a CMS soccer alum.”  The utter joy that this soccer ball brought to the group was really incredible: “I knew the day of the Kravis Prize that the work Right to Play and Mr. Koss do is profoundly important, but I really grasped that fact fully after my own personal experience.”

While the Kravis Prize recognizes large-scale philanthropic efforts and effects, it is not meant to overwhelm us to do everything we can, on a global stage, all at once. Instead, it inspires us to start the process in whatever way we can. Reflecting on the day, Doyle concludes, “Beyond Mr. Koss and Right to Play, what was also incredibly inspiring about that day was Mr. and Mrs. Kravis.” Surely, without them none of this would be possible. Doyle describes the power of their generosity and philanthropy very accurately: “jaw dropping.” But, no effect is too small or too short lived.  While they really “set the bar high for us CMC alumni” (and current students), they also “inspire us to all do as much as we can”—every little bit of initiative counts toward producing change.