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Ivan Allen Initiative to advance humanitarian work, research

Chris GonzalezMay 5, 2010 | Atlanta, GA

This article was originally published in Philanthropy Quarterly, Spring 2010

The legacy of the late Ivan Allen Jr., COMM 1933, former mayor of Atlanta and namesake of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, is well known to those who lived in the city and the region during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.

Allen was largely responsible for building Atlanta’s reputation as an international city through strong support for the business community, development of vibrant arts programs, and the recruitment of professional sports teams. For all this to be possible, though, Allen first had to address the issue of racial segregation and the increasing tensions resulting from it.

In the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy called upon Allen to testify before Congress in favor of civil rights legislation to allow equal access to public accommodations for African Americans, still a highly controversial idea in the South. Nearly all those whose counsel Allen sought strongly advised against testifying, warning the mayor that doing so would be politically damaging.

Despite the conventional wisdom being offered to him, Allen felt it was vitally important to support the civil rights legislation, not only to establish Atlanta as the “city too busy to hate,” but more importantly because Allen genuinely believed that doing so was a moral imperative. Ultimately, Allen was the only southern elected official who testified in favor of the legislation, a stunning act of social courage in 1963 that led to threats
of bodily harm and being ostracized for decades by many of his peers and life-long friends.

In recognition of Allen’s legacy of social courage and humanitarian concern, Georgia Tech and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts have established the Ivan Allen Jr. Initiative, which will encompass two defining elements: the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage and the Ivan Allen Jr. Institute for Advanced Studies.

Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage


Beginning in 2011, the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage will replace the existing Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service, which has been awarded since 2001 to prominent individuals for a lifetime of achievement and with strong connections to Atlanta or Georgia.

The new Allen Prize will be international in scope and will recognize individuals who, by standing up for a clear moral principle in the social arena, have positively affected public discourse at the risk of their own careers, livelihoods, and even their lives. The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage will be accompanied by a $100,000 award to be funded by the income from a $2 million commitment made in 2008 by the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation.

“What we envision for the recipients of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage goes far beyond being honored with the award at the annual Founders Day celebration,” said Ivan Allen College Interim Dean Kenneth J. Knoespel, who joined the College’s faculty in 1983 and also serves as McEver Professor of Engineering and Liberal Arts. “We anticipate having the recipient share a wealth of personal and professional experience with students and faculty during an extended stay on campus. The recipient’s presence will be reinforced through workshops, conferences, and other activities.”

It is also expected that the award recipient will interact with the greater Atlanta community, thereby extending the celebration of Mayor Allen’s principles to the city he so ably served. The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage will stand as the preeminent prize offered by Georgia Tech and will draw attention to the very mission of the Institute in Georgia, the nation, and the world.

“My father was always the kind of man who was guided by his conscience above any other consideration,” said H. Inman Allen, son of Ivan Allen Jr. and chairman of Ivan Allen Company. “I know there are many more Ivan Allens around the globe standing up for what they believe is right regardless of the risk, and I want this award to help bring the continuity of their examples to light.”

Recommend an Individual

  • To recommend an individual for the Ivan Allen Jr Prize for Social Courage, please send an email to ivanallenprize@gatech.edu.

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