News Release

Advocates for equity, free speech are 2019 Humphrey Leadership Awardees

Humphrey School of Public Affairs' awards for Public Leadership Awards.

The University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs is recognizing national civil rights and women’s advocate Johnnetta Betsch Cole, longtime Minnesota Public Radio host Gary Eichten, and Minnesota Air National Guard Brigadier General Sandy Best for their commitment to advancing the public good through equity and inclusion, with the 2019 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award. They will receive their awards at a ceremony on April 23, 2019.

The award was established in honor of the Humphrey School’s namesake, Hubert H. Humphrey, to recognize individuals who have contributed to the common good through leadership and service. This year’s awardees join a prestigious list of recipients that includes Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Vice President Walter Mondale, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. See the list of previous award recipients.

This year’s awardees share an uncommon belief in human potential and use their voices to lift up those around them. They exemplify the kind of leadership the Humphrey School hopes to celebrate and amplify: one of stimulating hope and opportunity in a changing world.

The 2019 recipients are:  
Johnnetta Betsch Cole, former director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art and first female president of Spelman College, for her outstanding legacy as an advocate for education, equity, and justice.
Gary Eichten, Minnesota Public Radio News editor-at-large and retired program host, for a lifetime of cultivating vital public conversations and advancing free speech.
Brigadier General Sandy Best (Humphrey Policy Fellow ’12), chief of staff and first female general of the Minnesota Air National Guard, for breaking barriers and serving the state with an inclusive leadership style, and for demonstrating a deep ethic of giving back to the community.
In addition, Humphrey School supporter and University of Minnesota alumnus James A. Johnson will be recognized at the ceremony for his decades of dedication to the University. Johnson (B.A., political science, ‘66; Honorary Doctor of Laws, ‘06), is chair of Johnson Capital Partners, and chair emeritus of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and The Brookings Institution.

The recipients will be honored at a gala dinner on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at the McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St. S.E. in Minneapolis. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and program. Proceeds support the Humphrey Public Leaders Fellowship.

About The Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is ranked as one of the country’s top 10 professional public policy and planning schools. The School is long noted for equipping students to play key roles in public life at the local, state, national and global levels and offers six distinctive master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and six certificate programs. Learn more at

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Advocates for equity, free speech are 2019 Humphrey Leadership Awardees
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities