William Foege awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

William Foege

May 10, 2012

Former CDC Director and Global Health Champion Helped Eradicate Smallpox

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) alumnus William Foege, MPH ’65, legendary for his work in the late 1970s to eradicate smallpox, has been named one of 13 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other recipients of this year’s medal—the nation’s highest civilian honor—include singer Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and astronaut John Glenn.

As director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from 1977 to 1983, Foege, a physician and epidemiologist, helped develop the vaccination strategy that ultimately broke the cycle of smallpox transmission. In other public health roles, he has worked for universal basic immunization for children and has sought to eliminate river blindness and guinea worm, two diseases that plague Africa. He has served as director of The Carter Center; and is a senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a professor emeritus at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and an affiliate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Foege has also been honored at HSPH. In 1994 he received the Alumni Award of Merit for his significant career in public health. And in 2006 he received the School’s highest honor, the Richmond Award, for the promotion of high public health standards among vulnerable populations. And in 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctor of science from Harvard University.

Read a White House press release announcing the award.

Learn more

Infectious Disease Experts Anthony Fauci and William Foege Receive Richmond Awards for Their Lifelong Efforts at Protecting Health (HSPH release)

History of the School: Leaders and Prizewinners