MINNEAPOLIS -- Jerry Reinsdorf will be honored with the Jefferson Award, one of the nation's top honors for community service and volunteerism, and also known as the "Nobel Prize for Public Service."
The White Sox chairman will be recognized on June 21 at a Washington, D.C., gala, along with 16 other recipients from around the country. That prestigious list includes NFL running back Warrick Dunn, actress Marlo Thomas and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"This is truly a wonderful recognition, one that I am very humbled and honored to receive," Reinsdorf said. "I'm thankful to all who have had a hand in helping along the way.
"All sports teams have a responsibility to give back to the fans and the communities that support them. Hopefully, we've done our own small part in improving the quality of life for Chicagoans of all ages, races and genders."
Reinsdorf's commitment to giving back clearly and decisively runs throughout the White Sox organization. During Sunday's second annual Celebrity Bowling Classic -- a fundraiser to benefit pediatric cancer research and treatment programs at Children's Memorial Hospital and Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago -- general manager Ken Williams and outfielder Brent Lillibridge reflected on that commitment.
"It's important, whatever we are as players, it's important to give back, because first and foremost we're entertainment," Lillibridge said. "We're there to entertain folks, and they deserve for us to give back. Helping this community and Chicago is really important. I really love this town, and want to do as much as I can."
"That's one of the things that we focused on a while back in our player acquisition process," Williams said. "Not just to try to get good ballplayers, but to try to get good people. And we're fortunate that we've got both -- good people and good ballplayers."
According to the release, Jefferson Awards are bestowed in five categories: national recipients, "unsung heroes" at the community level, champion winners (affiliated with companies or organizations), schools, and, for the second time, professional athletes. Reinsdorf is a national recipient, chosen to receive the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, while Dunn was chosen in the athlete category.
"We are proud to recognize Warrick Dunn and Jerry Reinsdorf with Jefferson Awards," said Sam Beard, founder and president of the American Institute for Public Service and The Jefferson Awards. "Jerry Reinsdorf has made Chicago a much better place for sports fans and non-sports fans alike. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of his community, ensuring that his White Sox and Bulls are as ingrained in the community as the community is in them."
Reinsdorf has been a major part of Major League Baseball initiatives since taking over the White Sox with his ownership group in 1981. He serves as a member of MLB's Executive Council, and on the Boards of MLB Advanced Media, MLB Networks and MLB Enterprises.
He was involved in the decision to return baseball to Washington, D.C., as chairman of the Relocation Committee, and he also serves on MLB's Equal Opportunity Committee. That committee was instrumental in the formation of Baseball's Diverse Business Partners Program, through which Major League Baseball and its clubs have purchased more than $260 million in goods and services from minority and women-owned businesses since its founding in 1998.
Both the White Sox and Bulls have donated millions to causes in the Chicago community through the Chicago White Sox Charities and CharitaBulls, listed among Reinsdorf's many contributions in his Jefferson Award resume. Among the many organizations that have benefited from Reinsdorf's charities are the Chicago Park District, Special Olympics and the Inner City Little League.
Chicago White Sox Charities made a $1 million donation to build four ballfields -- baseball, softball, Little League Baseball and a Miracle League Field designed for children with special needs. White Sox Charities recently donated $2 million to the Salvation Army to help build the Ray & Joan Kroc Center on Chicago's south side.
There was also the creation of the White Sox Volunteer Corps in 2009, in response to President Barack Obama's call to national service. More than 5,000 White Sox fans, along with team members, have donated almost 10,000 hours of community service since the Corps' creation.
Past recipients of the 39-year-old award include General Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.