DES MOINES, IOWA, U.S. — Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, longtime president of the World Food Prize Foundation, has announced plans to retire from the organization on Jan. 3, 2020. Quinn has led the WFPF for 20 years.

“Leading the World Food Prize and endeavoring to fulfill the vision of Dr. Norman Borlaug and John Ruan Sr. has been an extraordinary privilege,” Quinn said during a March 25 reception commemorating the 105th anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth. “It is an honor that I never could have imagined when I arrived back in Des Moines from Cambodia in 1999, having literally gone from The Killing Fields to The Field of Dreams. What at first seemed an impossible quest, to have the World Food Prize come to be seen as the ‘Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,’ has over the last 20 years become a dream come true.”

John Ruan III, chairman of the WFPF, thanked Quinn for his long and exceptional service.

“I am sincerely grateful for the leadership and vision that Ambassador Kenneth Quinn has brought to the World Food Prize,” Ruan said. “During his time leading The World Food Prize, he far exceeded our most ambitious expectations, ultimately creating an extensive program that includes a week-long set of events each October. The World Food Prize Foundation and the Ruan family are truly thankful for Ken’s passion and unwavering commitment to ensuring the longevity and impactful legacy of the World Food Prize."

When Quinn assumed leadership of the World Food Prize in January 2000, he had a one-person staff and the World Food Prize was a one-day event, drawing only 25 to 30 participants from outside of Iowa. Since that time he has built the annual World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony and the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium into the “Davos of Global Food Security,” an event that has been attended annually by more than 1,200 people from 40 to 50 different countries. Speakers at the World Food Prize programs in Iowa during Quinn’s tenure include: Chinese President Xi Jinping; U.N. Secretaries- General Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan; Princess Haya bint Al Hussein the U.N. Messenger of Peace; former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bill Gates who, from the stage of the World Food Prize Dialogue in 2009 launched his multi-billion dollar global effort to eradicate poverty.

“If there was a Mount Rushmore dedicated to the World Food Prize there would have to be room for Ambassador Ken Quinn’s likeness along with that of Dr. Norman Borlaug and John Ruan,” said Tom Vilsack, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “Ambassador Quinn took the World Food Prize to new heights with a passionate commitment to its purpose and its founders. He never lost an opportunity to expand the impact of the World Food Prize. By creating and building up the youth institute and fellowship programs he guaranteed succeeding generations would honor the legacies of Dr. Borlaug and John Ruan and accept the challenge of feeding the world and ending hunger. Iowans, in particular, should be incredibly proud of how Ambassador Quinn along with the Borlaug and Ruan families have brought the world to Des Moines every year allowing us to showcase our capitol city and state.”

Quinn has received numerous awards and recognitions during his two decades leading the World Food Prize. He was only the 23rd person to receive the Iowa Medal, the state’s highest civilian honor, when Governor Terry E. Branstad presented it to him in 2014. In 2019, in a ceremony in the House of Lords in London, he was presented the Steven Krulis Champion of Humanity Distinguished Service Award for his role in confronting genocide in Cambodia. Other honors include the American Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture and the FFA Distinguished Service Citation. Both are the highest awards given by those organizations. 

Quinn will retain the title of president emeritus of the WFPF for his lifetime.  The WFPF board of directors has hired a national firm to facilitate the search for Quinn’s successor.