Humphrey School Recognizes Visionaries and Groundbreakers with Public Leadership Awards

May 12, 2022
Humphrey Public Leadership Awards placed on a table
The 18th Humphrey Public Leadership Awards recognize Reatha Clark King, Acooa Ellis, Tracey Williams-Dillard, and Xcel Energy. Photo: Hannan Wazwaz

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is pleased to announce the recipients of its 18th Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Awards.

The awardees are science and higher education pioneer Reatha Clark King, community advocate and Humphrey School alumna Acooa Ellis, newspaper publisher Tracey Williams-Dillard, and utility provider Xcel Energy. They will be recognized at an awards event on May 25, 2022 at McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota, co-presented by Best Buy and Target. 

The Public Leadership Awards were established in honor of the Humphrey School’s namesake, Hubert H. Humphrey, to recognize individuals who have contributed to the common good through leadership and service.

The awardees join a prestigious list of recipients that includes Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Vice President Walter Mondale, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and longtime Minnesota civic and business leader Tom Swain. See the list of previous award recipients.

The 18th Public Leadership Awards recognize remarkable leaders who share an uncommon belief in human potential; who set bold goals, break barriers, emphasize team building, and use empathy to advance our common well-being as both local neighbors and global citizens.

About the honorees

Reatha Clark King

Reatha Clark King, emeritus chairman of the board of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She is well known for her pioneering service in chemistry, higher education, business, philanthropy, and community service. Over her distinguished career, she served as president of Metropolitan State University and held leadership positions at General Mills and the General Mills Foundation, where she oversaw its philanthropy and citizen programs. She served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies, providing leadership in ethics and business. She has received more than a dozen honorary degrees in addition to many other awards.  


Portrait of Acooa Ellis

Acooa Ellis (MPP ‘07), senior vice president of community impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way. Ellis directs United Way’s work in grant making, coalition engagement, systems change, public policy, and the organization’s 24/7 information and crisis services. Ellis is a transformation leader and champion for equity who has worked to advance critical business and civic objectives, evidenced by her leadership on numerous complex change efforts across the region and state—including the Minnesota Housing Task Force, St. Paul’s Community First Public Safety Commission, and the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. She is a trustee for the University of Minnesota Foundation.


Portrait of Tracey Williams-Dillard

Tracey Williams-Dillard, CEO and publisher of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Established in 1934, it is the oldest Black-owned business and newspaper in Minnesota and one of the longest-standing, family-owned newspapers in the country. As the granddaughter of the paper's founder, civil rights activist and businessman Cecil E. Newman, Williams-Dillard continues to fulfill the Spokesman-Recorder’s mission to provide timely news and information focused on community empowerment and education, while championing underrepresented voices.


Xcel Energy logo

Xcel Energy, Minnesota-based utility company, for its commitment to renewable energy by pledging to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030, and deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity to its customers by 2050. Its clean energy transition plans include adding significant amounts of wind and solar power, the early retirement of coal-fired power plants, and extending the licenses of its industry-leading carbon-free nuclear fleet. The company has also set a goal to help power 1.5 million electric vehicles in the states it serves by the end of the decade.



Portrait of Lee Wallace

Lee Wallace (MPP ‘05) will be recognized as the recipient of the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award, the highest award the University presents to alumni. Wallace, the owner and CEO of Peace Coffee, is being honored for her efforts to promote fair trade practices while growing a successful business. Wallace is recognized as a trailblazer in organic, ethically sourced, sustainable coffee, and her company works with remote coffee farmers in 11 countries to support cooperatives that pay industry-leading prices to producers.




Target and Best Buy logos







Logos of Comcast, Xcel Energy, Cargill, and Dominium





Laura Bishop and Chuck Weber 
Friends of Reatha Clark King
Greater Twin Cities United Way
Peggy and Ilo Leppik
Thomson Reuters