Humphrey School Recognizes Visionaries and Groundbreakers with Public Leadership Awards

July 30, 2021
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. More information about the event will be released in the coming weeks. 

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 serviceOver her distinguished career, she served as president of Metropolitan State University and held leadership positions at General Mills and the General Mills Foundation. Most recently, she has focused on corporate and organizational governance and advancing board excellence. 


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 agency’s 211 resource helpline. A champion for equity, she has lobbied in multiple states and worked at the local level to advance critical business and civic objectives. She previously served as director of social justice advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and held positions with Target Corporation and the City of St. Paul.


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 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 increasing its reliance on wind and solar power, phasing out coal-fired power plants, and supporting the development of electric cars. Its goal is to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030, and be 100 percent carbon free by 2050. 


In addition, Humphrey School alumna 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 is the owner and CEO of Peace Coffee.



Target and Best Buy logos






Xcel Energy logo




Laura Bishop and Chuck Weber

For information about sponsorships, contact Jaden Hansen, Humphrey School interim development director, at [email protected].

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