NEW YORK – The United States Olympic Endowment today presented two awards at its annual luncheon in New York. Jim Morris, vice chairman of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, and Donna de Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming and member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission, were honored in recognition of their commitment and contributions to the Olympic and Paralympic movements.
A long-time community leader, Morris was named the recipient of the George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award. The award is presented annually to honor outstanding members of the Olympic and Paralympic family who have contributed to sport through management, sport organization endeavors or the enhancement of competitive opportunities, and who have displayed qualities of leadership, ethical conduct and dedicated responsibility during a longstanding commitment to sport.
A two-time Olympian and Emmy award-winning journalist, de Varona was recognized with the William E. Simon Award, given to an individual or group who has made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the Olympic and Paralympic movements. Simon – the award’s namesake – was president of the USOC from 1981-85 and served as secretary of the treasury for three years under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
The USOE was established by the USOC in 1984 to administer and invest the corpus of endowed funds that resulted from the surplus of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games. A nonprofit organization, its objective is to support the USOC and its member organizations, with the overall aim of enhancing Olympic and Paralympic sports in the United States. A separate entity from the USOC, the USOE’s net assets have grown to approximately $192.6 million, while awarding grants to the USOC and its member organizations totaling $301 million over the last 31 years.
George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award – Jim Morris
Morris served as executive director of the United Nations World Food Program from 2002-07, working vigorously to build the worldwide partnership with UNICEF and the High Commission for Refugees to End Child Hunger. Prior to leading WFP, he combined a distinguished career of business, philanthropic and humanitarian leadership with an emphasis on developing communities and aiding at-risk youth. After serving six years in city government in Indianapolis, he moved to Lilly Endowment, Inc., and acted as president from 1983-89 before serving as chairman and CEO of the IWC Resources Corporation. While acting in these leadership roles, he also served as USOC treasurer, and as chairman of the USOC’s audit and ethics committee, NCAA Foundation and Indiana University Board of Trustees. Additionally, he was a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors, and vice chairman and trustee of the U. S. Olympic Foundation.
William E. Simon Award – Donna de Varona
One of the most preeminent advocates for women in sports, de Varona co-founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974, serving as the organization’s first president and chairman. Following a distinguished swimming career that saw her earn two Olympic gold medals, she became an award-winning broadcaster, covering 18 Olympic Games. For her contributions, she was inducted into the prestigious International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and was recognized with the International Olympic Committee’s Silver Olympic Order, the USOC’s Olympia Award and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. A member of the U.S. Department of State’s Council on Empowering Women through Sport, she also has earned five honorary doctorates for her work in education and Olympic sports-related federal legislation. A former board member of both the USOC and U.S. Olympic Endowment Foundation, she also served as chairman of the groundbreaking 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In addition to running her own marketing company, she is currently chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, an executive board member for Special Olympics International, and an advisor to Jordan's Generations for Peace Foundation and EY’s Women Athletes Business Network.