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Academy of Achievement: Academy Overview
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(Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, addresses
the 2014 International Achievement Summit in San Francisco, California.)


The Academy of Achievement is like no other organization in the world. For more than 50 years, this unique non-profit foundation has sparked the imaginations of young people across America and around the globe by bringing them into direct personal contact with the preeminent leaders of our times. The Academy was founded by Brian Blaine Reynolds, an acclaimed photographer best known for his contributions to Life magazine and Sports Illustrated. Reynolds established the Academy of Achievement to bring aspiring young people together with real-life heroes -- the kind of achievers he met every week on assignment. The Academy's first annual Banquet of the Golden Plate program was held at Monterey, California in September of 1961.

The Academy's annual gatherings transfer knowledge, inspiration and the benefit of extraordinary experiences from one generation of achievers to young people who will in turn become leaders in their fields. The Academy has provided thousands of outstanding young scholars, scientists and social entrepreneurs with an all-expense-paid life-changing experience -- one in which the rising generation whose dreams will determine our collective tomorrow draws inspiration from those individuals who have shaped our world of today.

Since 1961, these generation-spanning forums have allowed exceptional young scholars to interact one-on-one with Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winners in the arts and sciences, public servants, explorers, humanitarians, champion athletes, entrepreneurs, entertainers, and countless others who represent achievement in their respective fields. Such personal encounters send an enormously powerful message to young people raised in a world that so often values the superficial and ephemeral over the monumental and enduring.

These gatherings take on special significance in light of current world events. The sight of students of various lands and faiths coming together to enter into meaningful, reasoned dialogue with eminent leaders in many fields is surely a sign of hope for the future. Without greater understanding between nations, there can be no lasting peace, and this kind of intellectual discourse between individual leaders, both present and future, is essential to establishing such an understanding.

In this spirit, the Academy has established the International Achievement Summit, as well as programs such as Achievement TV and its Museum of Achievement in Washington, D.C. The biographies, interviews, symposiums, podcasts, and photographs presented on the Academy's website,, have been compiled from the Academy of Achievement's exclusive collection of interviews. The Academy has developed a comprehensive video archive of historical figures, weaving their stories into a unique narrative history of our world. While we believe that everyone can benefit by exploring the lives of these extraordinary leaders, visionaries, and pioneers, we encourage students in particular to draw on these materials while forming their own judgments and values. We encourage all to study these unique figures from our common heritage and discover how to apply their inspirational life stories as you create a roadmap to your own successful destinations.


The Academy of Achievement held its first annual International Achievement Summit in 1999. The forum gives exceptional scholars from around the world the opportunity to interact with preeminent achievers. The Academy invites leaders in diverse fields of endeavor to attend the Summit and participate in a series of symposiums and roundtable discussions. Approximately 80 men and women -- 50 distinguished previous awardees and 30 new members -- interact with 100 delegates -- graduate students, research fellows, scholars, young scientists, physicians and social entrepreneurs -- over the course of several days in an informal setting.

The Academy's Golden Plate Awards Council, composed of past honorees of the Academy, annually reviews a broad spectrum of candidates for invitation to the Summit. From this list, the Awards Council selects 30 new Academy guests of honor.

The highlight of the annual International Achievement Summit occurs on the final evening of the gathering at the Banquet of the Golden Plate. At the ceremony, each guest of honor is presented with the Golden Plate Award and the Academy of Achievement gold medal as a "representative of the many who excel" in their chosen professions.

The Academy of Achievement launched its series of International Achievement Summits at Budapest, Hungary in June of 1999, in conjunction with the NATO conference hosted by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Subsequent annual Summits have been held in London, England (2000), Dublin, Ireland (2002), Washington, D.C. (2003), Chicago, Illinois (2004), New York City (2005), Los Angeles, California (2006), Washington, D.C. (2007), Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (2008), Cape Town, South Africa (2009), Washington, D.C. (2010) and (2012) and in San Francisco, California (2014).


The International Achievement Summit can perhaps best be described as a global celebration of the human spirit to excel that lies at the heart of the American Dream. Its honored guests are those who have made a significant difference in today's world through individual effort in their own fields of endeavor. The roster of Academy members reads like a "Who's Who" of achievement, and includes many Nobel, Pulitzer, National Medal of Science, Business Hall of Fame, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar winners.


A sense of electricity grows throughout the program, as the delegates, through direct personal contact with past and present Academy honorees, are reminded of the shared history of human progress, and of the common heritage of individual leadership and initiative which know no national boundaries. Similarly, the guests of honor draw inspiration from the promise represented by the young delegates. Generational and cultural barriers fade away as participants join in the spirit of the occasion, a celebration of the individual's power to shape our world.

Academy members and delegates alike come away revitalized, with a new sense of purpose. Past Academy participants from all walks of life have echoed the sentiments of General Colin Powell, who described it as " of the most inspiring and gratifying occasions in my lifetime of occasions."


The Academy's Golden Plate Awards Council annually reviews a broad spectrum of candidates who are inspiring "exemplars of excellence" for possible invitation to the International Achievement Summit. From this list, the Awards Council -- composed of eminent past honorees of the Academy -- selects 30 new guests of honor. Fifty illustrious previous honorees join the new guests of honor at the Summit, and participate in the awards presentation at the Banquet of the Golden Plate ceremony.


The following is a partial list of Golden Plate honorees. These visionaries and pioneers -- whose ideas and talents have influenced the world -- have all participated in the annual International Achievement Summit and addressed the student delegates. They are listed with the year of their induction into the Academy. A more comprehensive Summary of Golden Plate Recipients, grouped by decade and field of endeavor, is also available.

U.S. Presidents

  • Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (2007)
  • William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States (2002)
  • George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1995)
  • Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1990)
  • Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1984)
  • Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States (1971)

Public Servants

  • Sonia Sotomayor, Justice, Supreme Court of the United States (2012)
  • Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice, Supreme Court of the United States (2005)
  • Hillary Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State (2003)
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Nobel Prize for Peace (2002)
  • James A. Baker III, Former U.S. Secretary of State (1998)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice, Supreme Court of the United States (1995)
  • Colin L. Powell, Former U.S. Secretary of State (1988)
  • Sandra Day O'Connor, Former Justice, Supreme Court of the United States (1987)
  • Jimmy Doolittle, Medal of Honor (1977)
  • Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army (1961)

World Leaders

  • His Majesty King Abdullah II, King of Jordan (2004)
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prresident of the Republic of Turkey (2004)
  • Shimon Peres, Former President of Israel (2003)
  • Benazir Bhutto, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan (2000)
  • Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Premier of the Soviet Union (2000)
  • Lech Walesa, Nobel Prize for Peace (2000)

Champions of Human Rights

  • John R. Lewis, United States Congress (2004)
  • Coretta Scott King, Pioneer of Civil Rights (2003)
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Prize for Peace (2003)
  • Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize for Peace (1996)
  • Rosa Parks, Congressional Gold Medal (1995)
  • Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Former U.S. Federal Judge (1978)

Innovators in Information Technology

  • Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web (2007)
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Co-Founders of Google Inc. (2004)
  • Jeffrey P. Bezos, Founder and Chairman of (2000)
  • Pierre Omidyar, Founder and Chairman of eBay Inc. (2000)
  • Michael S. Dell, Founder and Chairman of Dell Computer Corporation (1998)
  • Lawrence J. Ellison, Founder and Chairman of Oracle Corporation (1997)
  • William H. Gates III, Co-Founder and Chairman of Microsoft Corporation (1992)
  • Donald E. Knuth, Father of Computer Science (1985)
  • Grace Murray Hopper, Developer of COBOL Computer Language (1983)
  • Arnold O. Beckman, Inventor and Entrepreneur (1982)
  • Steven P. Jobs, Co-Founder and Chairman of Apple Computer Company (1982)
  • William R. Hewlett, Co-Founder of Hewlett-Packard Company (1981)
  • Jack S. Kilby, Inventor of the Integrated Circuit (1970)
  • Claude E. Shannon, Father of Information Theory (1967)
  • Howard Aiken, Father of the Computer (1965)

Business Leaders

  • Ray Dalio, Hedge Fund Master (2012)
  • Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (2007)
  • Michael R. Bloomberg, Former Mayor of New York City (2004)
  • Katharine Graham, Chairman of The Washington Post Company (1999)
  • Steve Schwarzman, Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group (1999)
  • Frederick W. Smith, Founder and Chairman of Federal Express Corporation (1998)
  • Carlos Slim Helú, Mexico's Telecommunications Tycoon (1994)
  • Phil Knight, Co-Founder and Chairman of Nike, Inc. (1989)
  • Ralph Lauren, Fashion Design (1989)
  • Henry R. Kravis and George Roberts, Co-Founders of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. (1987-1988)
  • Walter H. Annenberg, Publisher, Philanthropist and Diplomat (1985)
  • Ted Turner, Founder of Cable News Network (1984)
  • Chung Ju-yung, Chairman and Founder of Hyundai Group (1982)
  • John D. MacArthur, Chairman of Bankers Life and Casualty Company (1977)
  • Stephen D. Bechtel, Sr., International Engineering and Construction (1976)
  • Col. Harland Sanders, Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (1975)
  • Ray Kroc, Mastermind of McDonald's Corporation (1973)
  • Akio Morita, Co-Founder of Sony Corporation (1972)
  • DeWitt and Lila Wallace, Co-Founders of Reader's Digest (1966)

Sports Heroes

  • Bill Russell, Basketball Hall of Fame (2008)
  • Peyton Manning, Super Bowl Champion Quarterback (2007)
  • Sir Roger Bannister, Athletic Achievement of the Century (2000)
  • Michael Jordan, Greatest Player in Basketball History (1990)
  • Muhammad Ali, Boxing Champion (1986)
  • Wayne Gretzky, Greatest Player in Hockey History (1982)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant, College Football Hall of Fame (1979)
  • Tom Landry, Pro Football Hall of Fame (1978)
  • Hank Aaron, Home Run King (1977)
  • John Wooden, College Basketball Hall of Fame (1976)
  • Willie Mays, Greatest All-Around Player in Baseball History (1975)
  • Mickey Mantle, Baseball Hall of Fame (1969)

Cinema and the Performing Arts

  • Carole King, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2014)
  • Sidney Poitier, Legend of American Cinema (2014)
  • Diana Ross, Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement (2014)
  • Joshua Bell, Master Violinist (2008)
  • Brian Wilson, Music Producer & Performer (2008)
  • Harold Prince, Broadway Producer and Director (2007)
  • Itzhak Perlman, Preeminent Violinist of the 20th Century (2005)
  • Stephen Sondheim, Composer and Lyricist (2005)
  • Julie Andrews, First Lady of the Musical Theater (2004)
  • Bob Dylan, Icon of American Culture (2003)
  • Chuck Berry, Father of Rock and Roll (2002)
  • Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul (1999)
  • Robert DeNiro, Actor, Director and Producer (1994)
  • Francis Ford Coppola, Filmmaker, Producer and Screenwriter (1994)
  • Barbra Streisand, 51 Gold Albums and Two Oscars for Best Actress (1992)
  • Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz Musician, Composer, and Bandleader (1991)
  • Oprah Winfrey, Television Host, Actress, Producer and Philanthropist (1989)
  • Jim Henson, The Muppetmaster (1987)
  • Audrey Hepburn, Actress and Humanitarian (1991)
  • Martin Scorsese, Film Director, Screenwriter and Producer (1991)
  • George Lucas, Creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones (1989)
  • Johnny Cash, Country Music Hall of Fame (1988)
  • Joseph Papp, Theatrical Producer and Director (1986)
  • Leontyne Price, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1986)
  • Steven Spielberg, Film Director and Producer (1986)
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Two Oscars for Best Actress (1985)
  • Clint Eastwood, Motion Picture Actor and Director (1980)
  • Henry Fonda, Film and Stage Actor (1979)
  • Stevie Wonder, Singer, Songwriter and Activist (1977)
  • Ray Charles, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1975)
  • Jimmy Stewart, Oscar for Lifetime Achievement (1974)
  • Frank Capra, Three Oscars for Best Director (1972)
  • Helen Hayes, First Lady of the American Theater (1972)
  • John Wayne, Legendary Film Actor (1970)
  • William Wyler, Three Oscars for Best Director (1961)


  • Louise Glück, Former Poet Laureate of the United States (2012)
  • Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize for Literature (2009)
  • Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize for Literature (2009)
  • Edward Albee, Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (2005)
  • Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize for Literature (2005)
  • Norman Mailer, Two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction (2004)
  • John Updike, Two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction (2004)
  • Wallace Stegner, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1991)
  • August Wilson, Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (1988)
  • Herman Wouk, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1986)
  • Alex Haley, Author of "Roots" (1977)
  • James Michener, Storytelling Phenomenon (1971)
  • Irving Stone, Master of the Biographical Novel (1971)

Artists and Architects

  • Jeff Koons, Contemporary Art Phenomenon (2014)
  • Frank O. Gehry, Architecture Gold Medalist (1995)
  • Philip Johnson, Dean of American Architects (1991)
  • Robert Rauschenberg, Prolific American Painter (1986)
  • R. Buckminster Fuller, Designer, Inventor and Futurist (1977)
  • Louis I. Kahn, The Philosopher Architect (1971)
  • Thomas Hart Benton, Painter and Muralist (1961)
  • Yousuf Karsh, Master of 20th Century Photography (1961)


  • Robert J. Lefkowitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2014)
  • Saul Perlmutter, Nobel Prize in Physics (2014)
  • Shinya Yamanaka, Pioneer of Stem Cell Research (2008)
  • Baruch S. Blumberg, Developer of the Hepatitis B Vaccine (2000)
  • Robert Langer, Biotechnologist and Entrepreneur (2003)
  • Frederick Sanger, Two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry (2000)
  • James Thomson and John Gearhart, Discoverers of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (1999)
  • Francis S. Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health (1994)
  • John Bardeen, Two Nobel Prizes in Physics (1987)
  • Francis Crick and James Watson, Discoverers of the DNA Molecule (1986-1987)
  • Isidor Isaac Rabi, Nobel Prize in Physics (1986)
  • Linus Pauling, Nobel Prizes for Peace and Chemistry (1979)
  • Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, Inventor of X-ray Computed Tomography (CT Scan) (1976)
  • Jonas Salk, Developer of the Polio Vaccine (1976)
  • Wernher von Braun, Rocket Scientist and Space Architect (1975)
  • Eugene P. Wigner, Nobel Prize in Physics (1974)
  • Glenn T. Seaborg, Discoverer of Plutonium (1972)
  • Norman E. Borlaug, Father of the Green Revolution (1971)
  • Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize in Economics (1971)
  • Willem J. Kolff, Inventor of the Artificial Kidney and Heart (1971)
  • Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize in Medicine (1970)
  • Charles H. Townes, Inventor of the Maser and Laser (1969)
  • Vladimir K. Zworykin, Father of Television (1967)
  • E.C. Kendall, Discoverer of Cortisone (1966)
  • Harold C. Urey, Discoverer of Deuterium (1966)
  • Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Nobel Prize in Physics (1965)
  • John R. Pierce, Pioneer of Satellite Communications (1962)
  • Luis W. Alvarez, Developer of the Hydrogen Bubble Chamber (1961)
  • Charles Stark Draper, Inventor of the Gyroscope (1961)
  • Clarence (Kelly) Johnson, Aircraft Designer and Aeronautical Innovator (1961)
  • Edward Teller, Father of the Hydrogen Bomb (1961)


  • Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space (2004)
  • Jane Goodall, Primate Researcher (1987)
  • Alan Shepard, Jr., First American in Space (1981)
  • Chuck Yeager, First Man to Break the Sound Barrier (1974)
  • Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon (1973)
  • Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Conquerors of Mt. Everest (1973)
  • Jim Lovell, Commander of Apollo 13 (1968)
  • Helen Keller, Author and Political Activist (1965)
  • John Glenn, First American to Orbit the Earth (1964)


The outstanding scholars, scientists and social entrepreneurs selected to attend the International Achievement Summit are chosen from among the most distinguished young people in the world. The graduate student attendees are selected through a roster of prestigious international fellowship and scholarship programs, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Medical Research Fellowship, The Rhodes Scholarship Trust, The Truman Scholarship Foundation, White House Fellows Program, the Paul and Daisy Soros Foundation Fellowship, the Marshall Scholarship, Gates Cambridge Fellowship, and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship Program for Social Entrepreneurship. The faculty of colleges and universities around the world also nominate student delegates for the International Achievement Summit. The student delegates have distinguished themselves not only in their academic or artistic pursuits, but also in their record of service to their schools and communities as well as to various international charitable organizations. Their interests span the full spectrum, from the sciences to law, medicine, the humanities and entrepreneurship. In addition, the Academy of Achievement invites several student delegates who have demonstrated great promise in the performing arts to participate in the Summit activities.

Many of the student delegates who have participated in the Academy's annual Summit have gone on to make extraordinary contributions in their own lives, including: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google (Academy Class of 2000); Dr. Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute and a principal leader of the Human Genome Project (Class of 1974); Dr. Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics at Harvard University and a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology (Class of 1980); Bruce Reed, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden and former Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to President Bill Clinton (Class of 1978); Dr. Steven D. Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and best-selling author (Class of 1985); Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., Governor of the State of Indiana (Class of 1967); Debra Ann Livingston, federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Class of 1977); Herschel Walker, Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Georgia (Class of 1980); and Taylor Swift, singer, songwriter and musician (Class of 2008).


The Board of Directors, composed of Patrons of the Academy and representatives of the Awards Council, oversees all financial aspects of the Academy's operation. Each year, the Academy's Board of Directors reviews -- and considers for its approval -- a detailed budget. Additionally, an annual independent audit is presented to the entire Board.


The principal underwriter of the American Academy of Achievement's International Achievement Summit is The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Foundation, which has sponsored the International Achievement Summit since its inaugural gathering in Budapest, has also generously provided funding for a number of other Academy educational initiatives, including this website. A more complete listing of Academy Patrons and sponsors may be found on this website.


The Academy is a non-profit organization within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. All contributions to the Endowment Fund and to the Academy itself are tax-deductible under federal law.


The lives of legendary achievers have endlessly fascinated the public. We marvel at George Washington's selfless commitment to his country, Thomas Edison's vision, Helen Keller's courage. Such heights, young people often believe, could only have been scaled by someone of unparalleled genius, or persons born to privilege, or those favored by sheer luck. However, the lives and words of these heroes reveal a different story. Few were born rich. They were no more lucky or unlucky than their contemporaries. They were individuals like us, beset by the same challenges that human beings have faced throughout the ages. Their greatness lies not in accidents of birth or good fortune, but in how they met and overcame the extraordinary challenges they faced in their own lives.

Founded on the belief that great achievers can motivate and educate others by serving as inspiring role models, Achievement TV introduces a revolutionary concept by bringing individuals who have shaped the history of our time directly into the classroom. Achievement TV is an electronic forum that allows students to meet and learn from the outstanding visionaries and leaders of the last half-century. In their own words, these famous achievers tell of their experiences, struggles, dreams and personal paths to success, and engage in a unique, lively and innovative dialogue with the young people before whom each show was taped. All students, from those deemed "at-risk" to those in advanced placement classes, can discover heroes whose words and deeds will encourage them to strive for excellence in their studies and in their lives. Achievement TV programs are broadcast on numerous educational channels.


The American Academy of Achievement has created a museum in Washington, D.C. featuring interactive, multi-media displays telling the life stories of many of the Academy's members and their personal paths to success. Drawing upon its archives of exclusive, first-person source material, amassed over the past five decades, the Academy has created an exciting and unique exhibition.

Through state-of-the-art technology, visitors are brought into contact with the Academy honorees who have helped shape our times. In their own words, these leaders and visionaries share the path to their achievements, as well as candid insights into their own personal and professional lives. The contributions of these individuals to humanity's progress during the past century, and their spirit of innovation and ingenuity, will be preserved in the Academy's museum to inspire the creative thinking of future generations.


The one-on-one video interviews of more than 200 Academy honorees are featured on the Academy of Achievement's website,, alongside multimedia curriculum modules and a podcast center of selected symposium presentations from the annual International Achievement Summit. The website also hosts a collection of biographies and historic photographs of these Academy members. Visitors can access our online library and discover which books influenced the early lives of our honorees. The curriculum module topics feature Academy members talking to students about their personal insights and life experiences on a wide range of topics, including civil rights, social advocacy, creative writing and leadership. The Academy of Achievement's website receives 200 million hits per year from educators and students around the world. Our mission is to bring the personal stories of exceptional men and women to all who aspire to make a difference in their own lives.

In 2011, the Academy of Achievement published a library of more than 500 exclusive audio and video symposium presentations from their annual Summits on iTunes U. The Academy has continued to add to this collection, which now spans more than 30 years from 1981 to 2014. Academy of Acheivement podcasts are available to the public on iTunes U, free of charge, under the Creative Commons License.


Learn more about the Academy in these stories from domestic and international news media: