The University of Iowa College of Public Health selected Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a grassroots environmental justice organization based in New York City, as the 2023 recipient of the Richard and Barbara Hansen Leadership Award.
Shepard has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities.
“Peggy Shepard’s outstanding leadership has empowered low-income communities and people of color to engage in creating sound and fair environmental health policies and practices,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “We are honored to recognize her pivotal role in the environmental justice movement nationally and her dedication to ensuring that the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment extends to everyone.”
Shepard visited the University of Iowa campus to meet with College of Public Health students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. She delivered the Hansen Distinguished Lecture, “Advancing Environmental Health Through Justice and Equity,” at 12:30 p.m. in Callaghan Auditorium (N110 CPHB).
Shepard currently serves as co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council as well as chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the Board of Advisors of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. Her work has received broad recognition: the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment, the William K. Reilly Award for Environmental Leadership, the Knight of the National Order of Merit from the French Republic, the Damu Smith Power of One Award, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and honorary doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.
The Richard and Barbara Hansen Leadership Award and Distinguished Lectureship, the College of Public Health’s highest honor, was established in 2001 by a generous gift from Richard and Barbara Hansen. The annual award and lectureship honors persons who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the public health field and brings them to the University of Iowa campus for interactions with students, faculty, staff, community members, and public health professionals. More about the Hansen Award, including previous recipients, is available online.