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McDivitt Tompkins to Receive American Heritage Prize

January 30, 2023

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, a 1972 graduate of The College of Idaho, will be presented the 2023 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize. The award will be presented this spring in New York City. McDivitt-Tompkins will be joined at the event by Burns and American Prairie CEO Alison Fox.

American Prairie is a 3.2-million-acre swath of land in northern Montana dedicated to preserving the region’s shortgrass prairie ecosystem. After graduating from the College, McDivitt-Tompkins went on to co-found and serve as the CEO of Patagonia, Inc., before co-founding Tompkins Conservation with her late husband, Douglas. The organization has protected approximately 14.8 million acres of parklands in Chile and Argentina, helping to expand or create 15 national parks in the two South American countries along the way.

"I am deeply honored to join the impressive list of recipients of the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize,” said McDivitt-Tompkins. “Having visited American Prairie, I understand the critical importance of this important landscape and admire the organization's mission to conserve a fully functioning prairie ecosystem. I want to encourage and facilitate more conversation about where we are going and how we get there faster, and I believe American Prairie plays a key role in the movement to engage the next generation of conservation."

The Ken Burns American Heritage Prize, in its own words, celebrates a distinguished and visionary individual whose achievements in the arts, education, literature/history, or science/conservation have advanced our collective understanding of the indomitable American spirit. The candidates are chosen by a National Jury of distinguished leaders who represent communities across the country and share a common appreciation of America’s heritage.

Previous winners include filmmaker and National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin, prominent trumpeter, bandleader and composer Wynton Marsalis, and Pulitzer prize-winning novelist N. Scott Momaday, Ph.D., among others.

"The selection of Kristine Tompkins as the 2023 American Heritage Prize recipient connects two significant conservation projects at an important time in the conservation story. Kris's tenacity and bold rise to the challenge are reflected in the mission of American Prairie,” said Burns, the award-winning filmmaker who is known for his chronicles of American history and culture.

The presentation of the American Heritage Prize will take place on May 10 at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West in Manhattan.

The College of Idaho has a 132-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including eight Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit