GU to Host Prestigious Opus Prize Foundation Award

March 08, 2013

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University has been chosen to host the 2014 Opus Prize Foundation Award Ceremony and Process. One of the world's major efforts to honor and support faith-based humanitarian work, the annual award includes a $1 million prize and two $100,000 runner-up honors to individuals whose work has yet to receive widespread recognition.

The Opus Prize Foundation searches the world each year for people of any faith tradition who are working to address the world's most persistent social problems. These vexing social dilemmas include issues such as poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and injustice.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said the award embodies Gonzaga's values as an exemplar of Jesuit universities.

"The individuals who have received the Opus Prize over the past decade are the embodiment of the 'faith that does justice,' as they model for all — but in particular, for our students — the courageous effort to make the world a better place through work that models Jesus' teachings," President McCulloh said. "We can ask for no better series of events than the ones associated with the identification and celebration of Opus Prize winners if we wish to exemplify the impact of the Jesuit effort to educate students to live as women and men for others. Winners of this prize, inspired by various faith traditions, have fearlessly confronted dehumanizing, entrenched problems around the globe."

A partial list of previous Opus Prize winners' heroic accomplishments includes establishing charities and institutions to provide Jamaica's poor with basic services and skills; creating literacy centers and meaningful work opportunities in India; introducing public health programs in Brazil; providing post-secondary education to refugees from Congo, Rwanda and Burundi; and making available primary care, post-rape counseling, and training in HIV/AIDS prevention in the Congo. The Prize money has allowed winners to replicate their successful programs and widen the impact of their organizations.

According to the Foundation: "Opus Prize winners embody the Foundation's core values of entrepreneurship, transformational leadership, faith lived each day, service to others and respect for the dignity of the human person."

President McCulloh has appointed Michael Herzog, professor of English and chief of staff to the president, to assume responsibility for the project. Professor Herzog will oversee creation of a steering committee to assist him in planning and carrying out the selection efforts over the course of the next 20 months, as well as hosting the ceremonies in October of 2014.

The steering committee will identify "spotters" worldwide who will provide award nominations to Gonzaga. Professor Herzog will convene a jury of "jurors," distinguished individuals within and outside of Gonzaga that will narrow the list to three finalists. The Foundation then selects the primary award winner and the two runners-up.

The three finalists will be asked to spend time at Gonzaga around the time of the award ceremony so Gonzaga faculty and students may learn from their work. Gonzaga will sponsor events involving each of the finalists, allowing for the University and Inland Northwest communities to engage with them and learn from their extraordinary accomplishments.

This marks Gonzaga's inaugural hosting of the Opus Prize Foundation Award Ceremony and Process. While the Opus Prize Foundation provides funding for the award, the process of identifying the finalists and the award ceremony itself is carried out and hosted by a Catholic college or university selected by the Foundation. Previous hosts of the award include Jesuit universities Fordham University, Marquette University, Loyola Marymount University and Seattle University. The University of Notre Dame and St. Catherine University also have hosted the Opus Prize Foundation Award Ceremony and Process. Georgetown University is hosting the awards in 2013.