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Kenneth M. Quinn

Honorary President of the World Food Prize Foundation

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Amb. Quinn assumed the leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation on January 1, 2000, following his retirement from the State Department after a 32 year career in the Foreign Service. Amb. Quinn retired on January 3, 2020 from the Foundation, and in January 2023, rejoined the organization as a special consultant. Inspired by the vision of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, Ambassador Quinn has endeavored to build this annual (50,000 award into the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”

Held each October in Des Moines on or around World Food Day (October 16), the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, “Borlaug Dialogue” International Symposium and Global Youth Institute have grown in size and stature under his direction. With the support of the John Ruan family, Ambassador Quinn led the campaign that successfully raised over )0 million to restore the historic Des Moines Public Library and transform it into the World Food Prize Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates. More recently, he served as Chairman of the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee, which raised the funds and selected the artist to create the statue of Dr. Borlaug, which was unveiled on March 25, 2014 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

During his diplomatic career, Ambassador Quinn served: as a Rural Development advisor in the Mekong Delta; on the National Security Council staff at the White House; at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Vienna; as Chairman of the U.S. Inter-agency Task Force on POW/MIAs; and as Director of Iowa SHARES, the humanitarian campaign that sent Iowa doctors, nurses, medical supplies and food to starving Cambodian refugees.  

Dr. Quinn emerged from these experiences as one of the US government's foremost experts on Indochina. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the origins of the radical Pol Pot regime and is widely acknowledged as the first person anywhere to report, in 1974, on the genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge. Twenty years later, while serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, his plan of agricultural enhancements and rural roads led to the final eradication of the Khmer Rouge.

In his role as president of the World Food Prize, Amb. Quinn has received the following honors, many of which are the highest level national award that these organizations present:

  • The American Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award;

  • The FFA Distinguished Service Citation;

  • The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture Global Leadership Award;

  • The Crop Science Society of America Presidential Award; and

  • The AFA Leadership in Agriculture Award

  • The George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award 

  • The White House Champion Of Change Award 

  • The Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award;

Ambassador Quinn, a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, has a M.A. in Political Science from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Maryland. He and his wife Le Son have three adult children.

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