Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is the 2022 Vandenberg Prize Recipient

From left: Cary Justice; Ping Liang; Guk Low; Jennifer Tyler
Image of Marie Yovanovitch

Grand Rapids, Mich.--The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan (WACWM) has announced the recipient of its third Vandenberg Prize---which goes to a national or international leader who has been influential in developing global understanding and collaboration on the world stage. The first two prizes were awarded to Ambassador (ret.) Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. (2020) and General (ret.) James N. Mattis (2021).

The recipient of the 2022 Vandenberg Prize is Ambassador (ret.) Marie Yovanovitch. She is the former Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine (2016-19) at the appointment of President Obama; to Armenia (2008-11) at the appointment of President George W. Bush; and to Kyrgyzstan (2005-2008) at the appointment of President George W. Bush.

Ambassador Yovanovitch also held senior positions in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the Bureau of European and Asian Affairs, as well as served at U.S. Embassies in Moscow, London, Ottawa, and Mogadishu. In all, a 33-year career with multiple diplomatic awards, including the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, twice.

Her career is chronicled in a new best-selling memoir by the ambassador titled Lessons from the Edge (Mariner Books, 2022).

The ambassador was thrust into the national spotlight during the first impeachment trial of President Trump, where she testified from the perspective of her position as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. In that testimony, Ambassador Yovanovitch noted the legacy of Senator Vandenberg, who believed that foreign policy should be nonpartisan and that for the sake of our national security, politics should stop at the water’s edge.

The Vandenberg Prize is named after Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg (1881-1951) and was the inspiration for founding the Council in 1949 by Grand Rapids attorney (and later Federal Judge) Douglas Hillman and businessman Edgar Orr.

In addition, the Council will present the annual Hillman-Orr Award to a West Michigan individual or institution that mirrors the intent of the Council’s founding leaders to bring global awareness and international understanding to the West Michigan community.

The 2022 recipient will be Mr. Bing Goei, president and CEO of Eastern Floral, and a lifelong leader in the quest to deepen the welcome for New Americans in West Michigan from every corner of the world. He was the first Asian American to serve as chairperson of the Grand Rapids Chamber and the first Director of Michigan’s Office for New Americans, established by Governor Snyder to promote, among other things, the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrant communities.

The Ambassador and Mr. Goei will receive the awards during a luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Friday, June 24, 2022.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch was born to parents who fled the Nazis in Germany and the Communists in Russia, and from an early age was deeply impressed with the promise and appeal of American democracy around the word. Her diplomatic efforts, many conducted in the most challenging locations on the globe, has demonstrated a lifelong interest in forging strong international ties for the United States,” said Council executive director Michael Van Denend.

Hillman and Orr were inspired by the life and work of Senator Vandenberg, an isolationist who became a strong advocate of internationalism in the wake of World War II. Vandenberg forged bipartisan support for the Marshall Plan and NATO and was appointed one of the first U.S. delegates to the brand-new United Nations. Senator Vandenberg has always been considered the “patron saint” of the Council.

“Bing Goei’s family, like Ambassador Yovanovitch’s, fled an oppressive government and saw America as the chance for a new start with unlimited possibilities. But these leaders got to work themselves, striving each day to encourage America to live up to its ideals and to increase the chance for more global citizens to achieve freedom and a chance to thrive,” said Van Denend. “We in West Michigan are deeply fortunate that Bing made his home here to lead us in this worthy pursuit, and we’re delighted to host and learn from Ambassador Yovanovitch.”

The Council is grateful for a formational gift by The Meijer Foundation to launch this special recognition of the importance of global connectedness to West Michigan. Longtime World Affairs Council corporate supporters Amway and Bank of America are also major sponsors. More information on the Vandenberg Prize event can be found here.