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G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation Honored by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

May 31, 2005

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recently honored The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation of New York with the prestigious Cecil H. Green Award.  The award, named for Texas Instruments’ founder and philanthropist Cecil H. Green, is presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to oceanographic research at the Institution.

“The Vetlesen Foundation has been engaged in WHOI’s research programs since 1987.  Through discretionary support, the Foundation has enabled the Institution to foster programs that promise significant impact,” said WHOI President and Director Robert Gagosian.  “In some cases, Vetlesen support has worked to enhance a federally sponsored effort, to accelerate the pace of discovery and demonstrate the merit of a new technology.  In other cases, Vetlesen support has launched entirely new programs, venturing forward when the federal agencies were unwilling to take calculated risks. Vetlesen’s sustained support to WHOI over the last 18 years – totaling more than $10 million – has been critical to the Institution’s programs and its ability to exercise leadership in ocean science research and technology.”

Gagosian noted that, similar to the generosity of Cecil and Ida Green, the philanthropic impact of the Vetlesen Foundation is felt throughout the country at the nation’s top marine science institutions.  “In the ocean sciences community, the name Vetlesen is becoming synonymous with philanthropy.  The Foundation’s support is predominately discretionary, giving the nation’s best research organizations the ability to act decisively and move forward on their own priority initiatives,” Gagosian said.  “Although it sometimes seems that basic research progresses slowly, it does not.  Our enterprise is one in which the definition of ‘state-of-the-art’ changes quickly, and, therefore, staying at the forefront requires continual reassessment, as well as action.  The discretionary support the Vetlesen Foundation has provided gives the leading oceanographic institutions the flexibility to take such action.”

Gagosian said WHOI had applied Vetlesen support to projects the Institution believes have the promise of making true scientific and technological breakthroughs and can leverage additional funding from other sources to maximize the outcome.  The foundation’s support has helped launch some of WHOI’s most successful programs – from marine mammal research and robotic vehicle technology to climate change research.

The Cecil H. Green Award was established in 1991 by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Associates.  Cecil Green joined the Associates in 1959 and became a Life Associate in 1990.  He served WHOI as a Trustee and Member of the Corporation and had a long and positive impact on WHOI through his counsel and generosity until his death in 2003 at the age of 102.  As a man who built a career on the development of scientific instrumentation, Green endowed a program at WHOI that has proven to be influential in transferring pioneering ideas into the development of critical new tools for conducting cutting-edge ocean science.

Widely recognized for their lifelong commitment to scientific collaboration, research and education, Cecil and his wife Ida Green had an impact on science that reached well beyond WHOI, donating more than $200 million to science and medical research institutions throughout the country.

Cecil H. Green was the first recipient of the award in 1991.  Other individuals who have received the Green Award include Scientist Emeritus Stanley Watson, former Chairmen of the Board Charles Adams and Guy Nichols, and Honorary Trustees Walter Smith, Gratia Montgomery, and Lisina and Frank Hoch.  The Vetlesen Foundation is the first organization to receive the Green Award.

The Vetlesen Foundation was established in 1959 by a gift from G. Unger Vetlesen shortly before he died.  Mr. Vetlesen was born in Oslo in 1889, the son of a prominent Norwegian surgeon.  In World War II, Mr. Vetlesen, operating from London, directed the Norwegian underground resistance to the Nazis, for which he was made an honorary citizen of the United States.  After World War II, he represented the Norwegian American Lines in the United States and was a founder and chairman of Scandinavian Airlines.  In addition to its grantmaking program, the Foundation established the Vetlesen Prize in 1960. It consists of a cash award and a medal and is awarded regularly to scientists for outstanding achievement in the earth sciences.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, independent marine research, engineering, and higher education organization located in Falmouth, MA.  Its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment.  Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institution is organized into five scientific departments, interdisciplinary research institutes and a marine policy center, and conducts a joint graduate education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.