Gwen Grant Mellon and her husband, Larry Mellon, a scion of the Mellon banking and oil family, were sitting in the comfort of their Arizona home in 1947 when they read a Life magazine article about Albert Schweitzer and his mission hospital in Africa and vowed to devote their lives to similar work.
At age 37, Larry Mellon entered medical school at Tulane, and in 1956 he and his wife established in Haiti l'Hopital Albert Schweitzer, which has become a model for developing countries. After her husband died in 1989, Gwen Mellon stayed on and stood fast against political and economic adversity. She has worked not only to improve the health of the community but to strengthen the environment. "The whole point is to find ways to help the people live better," Mellon told People magazine in 1995.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Gwen Mellon will be recognized for her lifetime of commitment when she receives the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism. The ceremony will take place at 1:30 p.m. in the Bakst Theatre at Evergreen House.
The prize is given under the auspices of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in New York and is administered by Hopkins. The award, which carries a $15,000 cash prize, was established in 1986 by Albert Toepfer, an international grain merchant from Hamburg, Germany, to advance the cause of humanitarianism by recognizing exemplary contributions to humanity and the environment.
President William R. Brody and Lore Toepfer, daughter of Alfred Toepfer, will make the presentation. Receiving the award on behalf of Mellon, who has a hip problem that will keep her from traveling, will be Henry B. Perry III, director-general and cheif executive officer of Hopital Albert Schweitzer. Admission is free and open to the public. Refreshments will follow.
Previous recipients of the prize, which is now awarded every other year, include President Jimmy Carter, 1987; Marian Wright Edelman, 1988; Norman Cousins, 1990; and C. Everett Koop, 1991. President George Bush received the foundation's gold medal, which has no monetary award, in 1997.
For more about Hopital Albert Schweitzer, located in Deschapelles, Haiti, visit its Web site at www.homestead.com/hashaiti.