On November 24, William (Bill) Ruckelshaus will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Richard Nixon appointed Bill to serve as the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was formed at a time when rivers burned and bald eagles were on the verge of extinction. President Ronald Reagan late appointed Bill to serve as the agency’s fifth administrator.
Bill is a respected member of the Energy Foundation board of directors, and we congratulate him on this award. As a board member, he guides the foundation in its work to serve the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
In its announcement of this year’s award, the White House said the following about Bill:
William D. Ruckelshaus is a dedicated public servant who has worked tirelessly to protect public health and combat global challenges like climate change. As the first and fifth Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, he not only shaped the guiding principles of the agency, but also worked diligently to bring the public into the decision making process. Among the EPA’s key early achievements under his leadership was a nationwide ban on the pesticide DDT and an agreement with the automobile industry to require catalytic converters, which significantly reduced automobile pollution. He also demonstrated his commitment to public service and integrity as Deputy Attorney General. During the Watergate crisis, Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot Richardson chose to resign rather than fire the Watergate special prosecutor. Their principled stance was a pivotal moment for the Justice Department and galvanized public opinion for upholding the rule of law. He continues to advance his legacy of collaborative problem solving in his current role at the University of Washington and Washington State University.
In 2013, Bill and three other former EPA administrators co-authored a New York Times opinion piece called A Republican Case for Climate Action. The co-authors were Lee M. Thomas, who headed the EPA from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, from 1989 to 1993; and Christine Todd Whitman, from 2001 to 2003. Collectively, they served under presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush.
During the November 24 ceremony at the White House, Presidential Medals of Freedom will also be presented to Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, former Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Emilio Estefan, Gloria Estefan, Itzhak Perlman, and James Taylor.
We congratulate you on this award, Bill, and thank you for your continued good work.