June 22, 2018
The Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) awarded Richard Stearns, retiring president of World Vision U.S., their first annual Humanitarian Leadership Award for “exemplary leadership in the humanitarian field over the entirety of his career.” His wife Reneé was also honored, in recognition of her own contributions in this field and her faithful support of her husband Rich and the work of World Vision.
Jamie Aten, founder and executive director of HDI, and Kent Annan, director of Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College, where he leads HDI’s M.A. program, presented the awards after Stearns delivered his keynote address at HDI’s Disaster Ministry Conference on Friday, June 22.
Aten described how Stearns provided the inspiration and model for this new award: “The theme of this year’s Disaster Ministry Conference was ‘Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.’ and we really wanted to emphasize the importance of humility in leadership. With Rich coming as a keynote speaker, just months before retiring from World Vision, I couldn’t imagine a better example of what we hope to recognize in future recipients. His career—from his AIDS advocacy to his bestselling writing to his stewardship of World Vision as it grew to over $1 billion in annual revenue—has always been grounded in humility and compassion for the most vulnerable.”
Stearns becomes the first recipient of this new award, which drew its inspiration from the way he has exemplified our call in Micah 6:8 to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” throughout his 20 years at World Vision. Each year, this award will be given to a leader who has similarly demonstrated exemplary leadership throughout his or her career in the humanitarian or disaster relief field.
Stearns is the longest-serving president of World Vision U.S. He joined the organization in 1998 after more than 20 years in business, including CEO roles for Parker Brothers and Lenox. At World Vision U.S., Stearns has been a passionate and prophetic voice calling on the American church to care for the poor and respond to the greatest needs of our time, such as the AIDS pandemic and the global refugee crisis. He also is the author of four books, including the best-selling The Hole in Our Gospel (Thomas Nelson, 2010), which won the ECPA 2010 Christian Book of the Year.
Rich is quick to attribute his impact in the humanitarian sector to Reneé; she had a calling to help the poor long before they met in college. A lawyer by training and an advocate for children all her life, Reneé is a speaker, writer, and regularly travels internationally with Rich. Together, they co-authored He Walks Among Us (Thomas Nelson, 2013), a devotional drawn from the stories of children and families they have met over the years.
Rich and Reneé live in Bellevue, Washington, and they have five children and five grandchildren. He will retire from World Vision U.S. at the end of 2018.
The Humanitarian Disaster Institute is the first faith-based academic disaster research center in the country. Its mission is to help the church prepare and care for a disaster-filled world. HDI uses research to create resources and events geared toward students, survivors, helpers, and researchers. HDI also recently launched the M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College Graduate School to prepare the next generation of humanitarian and disaster professionals to lead with faith and humility, utilize evidence-based practice, and serve the most vulnerable and the Church globally. The Disaster Ministry Conference is an annual HDI event that builds networks with and among church and lay leaders, disaster researchers, professionals in emergency management, disaster relief, and humanitarian aid, and more.