Celebrating the 2022 Sammies honorees
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Partnership for Public Service hosted the 21st annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals®, or the Sammies, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Eight individual federal employees and teams were recognized during the Sammies program, the premier celebration of our nation’s public servants often described as the “Oscars” of public service.
MSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez emceed the event, and thanked the nearly 400 guests for helping pay tribute to the Sammies honorees and spotlighting the value of public service. Agency secretaries, deputy secretaries, members of Congress, business leaders, national and local media outlets, Sammies finalists and others from the public, private and nonprofit sectors attended the event.
“One difference from the Academy Awards program is that we focus not on fictionalized tales, but on real, often lifesaving dramas and accomplishments, the stories of the people who make and keep America strong,” said Partnership President and CEO Max Stier.
Meet the 2022 Sammies honorees
Federal Employee of the Year: Gregory Robinson, NASA
This year’s Federal Employee of the Year Medal went to Gregory Robinson for overseeing the successful launch of NASA’s revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope. Scientists are using images from the telescope to make spectacular discoveries about the origins of our universe.
Douglas Emhoff, the second gentleman of the United States, presented the award to Robinson saying that public servants work “for the benefit of helping others. And the work that Greg Robinson has done, has literally helped to change the world.”
Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal: Dr. Clifford Lane, National Institutes of Health
Dr. Clifford Lane won the Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal for conducting lifesaving research for people with HIV/AIDS, treating infectious diseases such as Ebola and helping establish medical guidelines to treat COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, our 2020 Federal Employee of the Year, presented the award to his friend and colleague, saying that he “epitomizes the outstanding caliber of public servants found at the National Institutes of Health.”
Safety, Security and International Affairs Medal: Hilary Ingraham, Holly Herrera and Kiera Berdinner, State Department
The Safety, Security and International Affairs Medal went to Hilary Ingraham, Holly Herrera, Kiera Berdinner and the Operation Allies Welcome Resettlement Team. These public servants coordinated the largest resettlement of refugees in modern U.S. history, providing housing and services in record time to more than 72,000 people who fled from Afghanistan in 2021 as American military forces withdrew from the country.
Ingraham accepted the award on behalf of the team and spoke about its plans moving forward. “As we look at the coming year, we are focused on exponentially increasing the number of refugees who resettle to the U.S. from all over the world,” she said. “We’re asking you for your help in welcoming these refugees into your local communities.”
State Department Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon presented the award.
COVID-19 Response Medal: Dr. Amanda Cohn, Anita Patel and Dr. David Fitter, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Amanda Cohn, Anita Patel and Dr. David Fitter won the COVID-19 Response Medal for designing and implementing the plan to distribute hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to states, localities and pharmacies across the country while communicating the importance of these vaccines to the public.
“Thank you to the incredible thousands of people at the CDC who touched this work,” Patel said as she accepted the award. “The most humbling privilege that the three of us had was to be able to help lead and guide all these incredible health practitioners to help solve these incredible problems.”
Andrea Palm, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, presented the award.
Management Excellence Medal: Barbara C. Morton, Department of Veterans Affairs
This year’s Management Excellence Medal was presented to Barbara C. Morton for helping the VA respond more directly to the needs of veterans. In her acceptance speech, Morton reflected on the importance of the Sammies. “It is so inspiring and wonderful to be a public servant,” she said. “I hope that we can inspire the next great generation of public servants through these stories.”
Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough presented the award.
Science, Technology and Environment Medal: Cindy Newberg, Environmental Protection Agency
Cindy Newberg won the Science, Technology and Environment Medal for leading domestic and global efforts to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons—greenhouse gases that are major contributors to climate change.
Newberg spoke about finding new ways to work with federal partners, global partners, industry and environmental organizations to tackle the enormous issue of climate change.
“[We didn’t want] to say, ‘Climate is too big—we can’t fix it,’ but instead [we said], ‘Let’s take a small piece of this. Let’s tackle a few chemicals, then let’s tackle a few more and find a way to figure out what the right ideas are.”
Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management, presented the award.
Emerging Leaders Medal: Krista Kinnard, Department of Labor
The Emerging Leaders Medal went to Krista Kinnard for igniting a technology transformation at the Department of Labor. She helped automate many repetitive administrative processes by using modern technology, reducing errors and creating greater efficiencies that enabled Labor employees to better serve the public. In her acceptance remarks, Kinnard said that winning this award as a technologist illustrated the important role of technology in government.
“I truly believe that … for the government to really benefit the communities we work with and serve, we have to be digital,” she said. “We have to embrace innovation and technology.”
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor Julie Su presented the award.
People’s Choice Award: Josh Josa, U.S. Agency for International Development
This summer, the Partnership announced Josh Josa as the 2022 People’s Choice Award winner. After weeks of voting and tens of thousands of votes cast, the public recognized Josa, an inclusive education specialist, for his work to promote educational opportunities in developing nations for children and youth with disabilities.
During the Sammies program, Alicia Menendez led the audience in a special congratulations for Josa.
Spirit of Service Award
In addition to recognizing this year’s Sammies honorees, the Partnership presented the Spirit of Service award to Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, for his leadership in championing effective government and for his commitment to advance social, economic and political justice.
Bestselling author Michael Lewis introduced Walker, who participated in a fireside chat with Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Walker spoke about his unexpected path into philanthropy and his current work to address inequality around the country. He also offered words of encouragement to the Sammies honorees and public servants in the theater.
“Thomas Jefferson said the work of America is to build a just nation,” he said. “We’re counting on all the leaders and innovators in this audience to help us achieve that.”
Nominate someone for the 2023 Sammies
Do you know an exceptional federal employee? Nominations for the 2023 Sammies are now open! Learn more about how you can nominate someone for next year’s awards.
Photo credit: Joshua Roberts