Dr. Lee Hartwell, center president and director, was one of four to receive the 2003 Medal of Merit, the state's highest honor for civilians, at a ceremony July 9 in the Temple of Justice in Olympia. Gov. Gary Locke presented the medals to recipients, who also included former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas Foley, veterans' advocate Helmut "Brownie" Braunsteiner, and former filmmaker and author Ernest K. Gann.
"Medal of Merit award winners are trailblazers in responsible citizenship and are practitioners of progress and humanitarianism," Locke said. "These people do more than carry the torch of community and civic duty. They selflessly and tirelessly devote their lives to advancing that torch, and making sure it blazes brightly for years to come. We are humbled by their dedication to others, proud of their achievements, and inspired by their example."
The award is presented to individuals for their exceptional conduct in providing outstanding services to citizens. The four honorees are among just 18 past recipients who have received the award since the program began in 1986.
A Medal of Merit was awarded in 1998 to Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, director emeritus of the Clinical Research Division and a recipient of the 1990 Nobel prize in medicine or physiology.
"I am fortunate to represent an institution that exemplifies the spirit of the award," said Hartwell, a recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his pioneering work in yeast genetics. "The award reflects the excellence of the center as a whole."
The Medal of Merit, a program under the Secretary of State, is awarded through a committee that meets annually to consider candidates for nomination. The committee membership consists of Gov. Locke, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, Secretary of State Sam Reed, Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, and House Speaker Frank Chopp.