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Photo via Madrona/William Ruckleshaus
Photo via Madrona/William Ruckelshaus

A well-known name in Seattle’s business world, William Ruckelshaus, will receive our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ruckelshaus, a strategic director at Madrona, was one of 17 people named by President Barack Obama today to receive the award.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to those “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House statement.

Ruckelshaus is being honored for his work as a “dedicated public servant who has worked tirelessly to protect public health and combat global challenges like climate change,” according to the White House.

That includes working for the Environmental Protection Agency under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, with his key achievements including a ban on DDT and getting the automobile industry to agree to use catalytic converters, which reduce pollution. Ruckelshaus has also served as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to his Madrona bio, Ruckelshaus also chairs a joint center between the University of Washington and Washington State University, a “neutral resource” that collaborates on policy development and multiple-party dispute resolution in the Pacific Northwest.

Ruckelshaus has also worked on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Science Advisory Board, and has co-chaired the Puget Sound Partnership and helped organize clean-up efforts of Puget Sound.

Yet another Washingtonian will receive the prestigious medal (posthumous) — Billy Frank Jr., “a tireless advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship, whose activism paved the way for the ‘Boldt decision,’ which reaffirmed tribal co-management of salmon resources in the state of Washington,” according to the White House release. Frank led “fish-ins” during the ’60s and ’70s tribal fish wars, and has also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award for Humanitarian Achievement.

Other recipients of the medal include a prestigious list of athletes, artists, scientists and groundbreakers. For example, posthumous awards will go to baseball great Yogi Berra and Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

Other key influencers also receiving the award include: NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, whose work has impacted “every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program”; Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving female senator and longest-serving woman in Congress who also championed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; and some entertainers you might have heard of including composer Stephen Sondheim, director Steven Spielberg and artist Barbra Streisand.

The awards will be presented Nov. 24.

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