In 1989, Richard N. Goldman (1920-2010) and his wife, Rhoda H. Goldman (1924-1996) established the Goldman Environmental Prize, stemming from their lifelong commitment to environmental protection, in order to recognize ordinary individuals working at the grassroots level who protect and enhance our environment.
Richard and Rhoda grew up in San Francisco and lived down the street from each other as young children. Richard was friends with one of Rhoda’s brothers. Eventually both Richard and Rhoda attended the University of California at Berkeley. Following college, Richard spent four years in the armed services and returned to San Francisco in 1946. He later ran into Rhoda, the little girl from down the street, at a friend’s wedding. They were married within the year.
In 1949 Richard founded Goldman Insurance Services, a major insurance brokerage firm based in San Francisco. The firm was eventually sold to Willis Insurance in 2001. Rhoda Haas Goldman was a descendant of Levi Strauss and served on the Board of Directors of both the apparel company and the corporation’s philanthropic foundation.
In 1951, Richard and Rhoda started the Goldman Fund, a philanthropic foundation that gave away nearly half a billion dollars to a variety of nonprofit organizations that are making the world a better and safer place. The Goldmans are known for their commitment to arts and culture, Jewish affairs and the environment.
Richard and Rhoda had four children, Richard (1947-1989), John, Susan, and Douglas. They have eleven grandchildren.
In 1989, when my late wife Rhoda and I established the Goldman Environmental Prize, we had no idea the award would become the world's largest prize program for grassroots environmental activists. While there are other prizes for environmental achievement, it is this focus on work done at the grassroots level that sets the Goldman Prize apart. The attention that the news media throughout the world has accorded the Goldman Prize and its recipients has vastly exceeded our expectations.
Goldman Prize recipients are proof that ordinary people are capable of doing truly extraordinary things. Although the Prize winners represent a wide variety of nations and work on very different issues, they have much in common. All have shown conviction, commitment and courage. Ken Saro Wiwa, the 1995 Goldman Prize winner from Africa, was executed by his government for protecting the rights of Nigeria's Ogoni people, whose oil-rich land had been exploited by multi-national oil companies.
More than ever the voices represented by these individuals are being heard around the world. Several Prize recipients have been appointed or elected to political office. Many have become ministers of the environment in their respective countries, while others have been elected senators in their national parliaments. Marina Silva (1996), a former rubber-tree tapper who led a movment to halt deforestation in the Brazilian rainforest, was elected to the Brazilian senate in 1994, and in 2003 became Brazil's Minisiter of Environement. The 1991 Goldman Prize winner from Africa, Wangari Maathai, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, for her dedication to the environment, human rights, and peace.
In everything we do, we are continually inspired by the selfless examples provided in abundance by the ever-growing family of Goldman Prize recipients.