Academy of Achievement

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Academy of Achievement
Logo of the Academy of Achievement
Formation 1961
Type Non-profit organization
Headquarters Washington, D.C., USA
Chairman & CEO
Wayne R. Reynolds[1][2]
Vice Chairman
Catherine B. Reynolds[3][4]

The Academy of Achievement is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that aims to bring high profile, successful people from various fields together with "young achievers" to inspire them to succeed.

The organization presents its annual "Golden Plate" award to high achieving individuals.

Notable recipients of the award who have participated in the International Achievement Summit include Barack Obama, Jonas Salk,[5] Michael Jordan,[2] Toni Morrison, John Updike,[6] Ronald Reagan,[7] John Wayne, Mickey Mantle,[8] Maya Angelou,[9] Desmond Tutu, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride,[10] Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles,[11] Aretha Franklin,[12] James Watson and Francis Crick, Linus Pauling, Tim Berners-Lee,[13] Dizzy Gillespie,[13][14] Audrey Hepburn, Sidney Poitier,[15] Oprah Winfrey,[15] George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal,[16] Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Roger Bannister, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton,[17][18] George H. W. Bush, Benazir Bhutto, Shimon Peres, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa and Steve Jobs.[19][20]


Academy of Achievement building


The Academy of Achievement was founded by [21][22] Sports Illustrated and LIFE magazine photographer Brian Reynolds in 1961[23][10] to honor high achievers and to inspire young people by introducing them to high achieving individuals.[9] On his many assignments as a magazine photographer, Brian Reynolds realized that high achieving individuals rarely had the opportunity to meet and share ideas with leaders in other disciplines.[23] And, with that vision, Reynolds created the Academy of Achievement to bring together accomplished individuals from diverse fields of endeavor to meet one another and encourage the next generation of young leaders. The first event hosted by the Academy was a "Banquet of the Golden Plate" on September 9, 1961 in Monterey, California.[24] The inspiration for the naming of the Banquet of the Golden Plate was the gold plate service "used only on very special occasions" at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920s.[24][25] At the Academy program, individuals were awarded the Academy's "Golden Plate" for their contributions as leaders in science, the arts, public service, sports and industry. The first honorees were chosen by a national board of governors and included Luis W. Alvarez, Charles Mayo, Willard F. Libby, and Wernher von Braun. Edward Teller gave the keynote speech.[24][26] The second annual Banquet of the Golden Plate was held in San Diego, California on December 29, 1962. Among the guests of honor in 1962 were Murray Gell-Mann, Robert Stack and Rafer Johnson. Louis Nizer gave the keynote speech.[27] The 50th anniversary Banquet of the Golden Plate was held in Washington, D.C. on October 27, 2012. The guests of honor at the 2012 Summit included Leon Panetta, Eric Holder, Sonia Sotomayor, Ray Dalio, David Petraeus, David Brooks and Louise Glück.[28]


The Academy's mission is to recognize outstanding achievement in a variety of fields, including the arts, business, science, politics and the humanities.[17][29] The organization also aims to provide inspiration and encouragement to young people to reach a high level in their careers and personal interests by bringing them into contact with successful individuals.[30][31] According to The Press Enterprise, the organization's founder Brian Reynolds wanted the Academy to teach young people about "adversity and how to overcome it".[32]

Organization and funding[edit]

Brian Reynolds led the Academy as its executive director[10][26] until 1985, when his son Wayne Reynolds assumed leadership.[2][33] Wayne Reynolds is the current chairman of the Academy of Achievement, which he manages with his wife, Catherine B. Reynolds,[33] the vice chairman.[34] In the 1990s, Reynolds moved the organization from Malibu, California to its current headquarters in Washington, D.C.[2] In addition to the Academy's annual events, it also operates the Museum of Achievement and a website, which features biographies and videos of interviews with Academy of Achievement inductees.[17][35]

The Academy, which operates as a non-profit organization,[36] was initially funded with Brian Reynolds' personal wealth. More recently, donations from corporate sponsors support its activities[2][33] and the Academy's website states that its funding is primarily provided by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.[6][37][38]

In 2007, the Washington Post reported that the Academy is a beneficiary of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, which is led by Catherine Reynolds.[39] The Academy has received $9 million of the more than $100 million in donations made by the Foundation to an array of arts, education and social enterprise organizations.[40]

International Achievement Summit[edit]

The International Achievement Summit was first hosted in 1961.[24] The meeting was originally called the annual "Salute to Excellence" and was later renamed the "International Achievement Summit". This annual meeting gives exceptional graduate students the opportunity to interact one-on-one with Nobel Prize-winners in the arts and sciences, public servants, prize-winning journalists, explorers, humanitarians, financiers, athletes, and entertainers. The Academy invites leaders in these categories to attend the Summit and address the students at a series of symposiums and roundtable discussions. The Academy also organizes dinners and other social events where the students are able to meet with honorees or to listen to them speak on various topics. Approximately 30 previous awardees and 20 new ones interact with 200 domestic and international graduate students in an informal setting over the course of four days. The summit concludes with a formal dinner where that year's honorees are officially presented with their Golden Plate awards and inducted into the Academy of Achievement.[2][9][14][10][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49]

Until 1999, the meeting was held in a different U.S. city each year. In 1999, the event became the "International Achievement Summit", when the Academy held its first international meeting in Budapest, Hungary.[17][50] Subsequent Summits have been held in London, England (2000),[29][51][52] Dublin, Ireland (2002), Washington, D.C. (2003),[17] Chicago, Illinois[31] New York City (2005), Los Angeles, California (2006), Washington, D.C. (2007), Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (2008), Cape Town and Singita Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa (2009), Washington, D.C. (2010[53]and 2012)[28] and San Francisco, California (2014).

Golden Plate awardees[edit]

The "Golden Plate" is the Academy of Achievement's official award, which is presented to honorees at the end of its annual Summit. The Academy’s Golden Plate Awards Council annually reviews a broad spectrum of candidates for invitation to the Summit. From this list, the council, composed of past "Golden Plate" honorees of the Academy, selects the 20 new awardees. Award recipients are selected for significant achievement in their fields.[17] The Academy has presented awards to numerous honorees, who have included Nobel Prize winners, presidents, scientists, athletes, authors and entertainers.[6][54]

The award recipients have included Muhammad Ali, Frank Capra, George Cukor, William Wyler, Clare Boothe Luce,[36][55] Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Bill Russell,[5][18] Rosa Parks,[6] Elie Wiesel, Itzhak Perlman,[56] Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg,[2] Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons,[15] Ralph Lauren, Clint Eastwood,[18][16][57]Barbra Streisand, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay,[6] Wole Soyinka, Wynton Marsalis, August Wilson, Edward Albee, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, Mike Nichols, Jim Henson, Jimmy Carter, John Wooden, Bear Bryant, Tom Landry,[58] Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese,[19] Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, Phil Knight, William R. Hewlett, Milton Friedman, Carlos Slim, Stephen Bechtel, John D. MacArthur,[41] Helen Hayes, Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Edward Teller, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Billy Graham, Frank Gehry, Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, E. O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Norman Borlaug, Howard H. Aiken, Grace Hopper, Jack Kilby, Claude Shannon, Charles Stark Draper, Kelly Johnson, Charles Townes, John Bardeen, Frederick Sanger, Jane Goodall, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,[9] Coretta Scott King, Leontyne Price, Bono, Diana Ross, Carole King, Brian Wilson, Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Alex Haley, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, James Michener, Wallace Stegner, Herman Wouk, Gerald Ford, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager,[17] Colin Powell and Douglas MacArthur.[19][20]

Steve Jobs received the award in 1982, when he was 26, and in his speech to the Academy student delegates, he reflected upon innovation and creativity and said, “but a lot of it’s the ability to sorta zoom out like you’re in the city and you can look at the whole thing from about the 80th floor down at the city, and while other people are trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B reading these stupid little maps, you can just see it all out in front of you....But the key thing is that if you’re gonna make connections which are innovative, you’ve got to connect two experiences together, that you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does, or else you’re going to make the same connections, and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award.”[59]

Student delegates[edit]

Several hundred graduate students from the U.S. and overseas attend the "International Achievement Summit" each year. The summits were originally attended by high school students chosen based on their academic achievement and extracurricular activities.[10][30][44] More recently, the graduate student attendees of the International Achievement Summit have been selected from a roster of recipients of scholarship and exchange programs including Rhodes, Fulbright, Truman, Gates Cambridge, Marshall,[17] Soros,[60] Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellows[61] and White House Fellows and faculty nominations from leading universities.[17] Notable student delegates include:[6]


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External links[edit]