Academy of Achievement
|Headquarters||Washington, D.C., USA|
Chairman & CEO
|Wayne R. Reynolds|
|Catherine B. Reynolds|
The American Academy of Achievement, colloquially known as the Academy of Achievement, is a non-profit educational organization that recognizes some of the highest achieving individuals in diverse fields and gives them the opportunity to meet one another. The Academy also brings together the leaders with promising graduate students for mentorship. The Academy hosts an International Achievement Summit, which ends with an awards ceremony, during which new members are inducted into the Academy.
Founded in 1961 by Sports Illustrated and LIFE magazine photographer Brian Reynolds, the Academy of Achievement recognizes the highest achievers in public service, business, science and exploration, sports and the arts. Reynolds established the Academy after he realized that the famous people he photographed from different fields did not usually have the opportunity to interact with one another. The organization was described in a 1989 San Francisco Chronicle article as “little-publicized but immensely powerful.” According to Dr. William DeVries, who helped develop the first artificial heart, “It is a social network. Like a club. Now I can call Chuck Yeager up, or Philip ‘Bo’ Knight and they'll return my calls, ask me out places. I promised myself I would never ask the people here for money, but I know a lot of scientists who do.” Reynolds also wanted to bring together highly accomplished leaders with promising students in order to inspire them. At the 1990 summit in Chicago, for example, student delegates “rubbed shoulders” with Ronald Reagan, Maya Angelou and Michael Jordan, and in 1995, top students met with inductees including George H. W. Bush, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lady Bird Johnson, Robin Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Rosa Parks.
Academy members and summit attendees have also included “Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan ...Colin Powell ...Maya Lin, Barbra Streisand, Mikhail Gorbachev, Steven Spielberg [and] George Lucas.” In 2005, the Washington Post described the event as “one of the world’s most dazzling gatherings of international celebrities - Nobel Prize winners, heads of state, star athletes, titans of industry, scientists and entertainers.”
In 1985, Reynolds' son, Wayne Reynolds, took over the leadership, becoming the executive director of the Academy and, in 1999, was selected as the board chairman. In the 1990s, Reynolds moved the organization from Malibu, California, to its new foundation headquarters building in Washington, D.C.
The annual summit is attended by graduate students and young innovators from the U.S. and overseas, like Sergey Brin and Larry Page, computer science graduate students who later founded Google. The summits were originally attended by high school students chosen based on their academic achievement and extracurricular activities. Preceding the awards dinner are three days of panels, presentations and informal dialogues between the students and inductees. Many inductees return multiple years to participate in the panels, programming and networking.
On September 9, 1961, the Academy hosted its first International Achievement Summit. The summit, held in Monterey, California, included a "Banquet of the Golden Plate" award ceremony, named for the gold plate service used for special occasions by the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, which provided the service for the ceremony. Physicist Edward Teller was the keynote speaker, and warned of the United States' poor performance in the atomic arms race. Awardees at the inaugural ceremony also included engineers Charles Stark Draper and Kelly Johnson, General Douglas MacArthur and film director William Wyler. Other attendees at the inaugural banquet included Nobel laureate Willard Libby (Chemistry 1960) and future Nobel laureate Luis Walter Alvarez (Physics 1968). The first honorees were chosen by a national board of governors, but subsequent honorees have been selected by the Golden Plate Awards Council, which consists of prior Academy awardees.
Notable Recipients of the Golden Plate Award
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