DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The president of the World Food Prize, a retired U.S. diplomat, will be the latest recipient of the Iowa Award, the state’s highest citizen honor, Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday.
Kenneth Quinn, the former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia took the job heading the World Food Prize Foundation in 2000 after retiring from a 32-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
He served six years in Vietnam during the war, on the National Security Council staff at the White House, and as a fluent speaker of Vietnamese was the interpreter for President Gerald Ford.
Quinn negotiated the first ever entry by U.S. personnel into a Vietnamese prison to search for U.S. prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. He has won heroism and valor awards from the secretary of state for his efforts to protect American citizens exposed to danger in Cambodia and he is the only civilian to have received the U.S. Army Air Medal for his participation in helicopter combat operations in Vietnam.
As head of the World Food Prize, Quinn led the campaign to raise $29.8 million to restore the former Des Moines Public Library and make it the new home for the World Food Prize. The prize was established by 1970 Nobel Prize laureate Norman Borlaug to recognize the achievements of individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food.
The Iowa Award was established in 1948. Past recipients include President Herbert Hoover, Vice President Henry Wallace, and the artist Grant Wood.
Quinn, 71, grew up in Dubuque.