Steven Hilton, head of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, last night became the first recipient of the Howe-Fisher Founders Award – a prestigious new honor presented by Perkins School for the Blind in recognition of transformative leadership.
Hilton, a key figure in the creation of the Hilton-Perkins Program in the late 1980s, was honored at a celebratory dinner on the campus of Perkins School for the Blind.
The Hilton-Perkins Program, later renamed Perkins International, was the first large-scale effort to educate children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment in the developing world. Over the last quarter-century, it has worked with local partners to bring expanded educational opportunities, literacy and vocational training to hundreds of thousands of children who are blind around the world.
Also receiving the Howe-Fisher Founders Award was Donald Hubbs, director emeritus of the Hilton Foundation. Hubbs, who was unable to attend the event, played a central role in the 1989 launch of the Hilton-Perkins Program, which was made possible thanks to an initial five-year, multi-million dollar grant from the Hilton Foundation.
Perkins President and CEO Dave Power said Hilton and Hubbs “helped lay the foundation of success for Perkins International over the last 25 years.”
“What they did changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in developing countries – children who, until these leaders came along, were destined to live in darkness,” he said. “Steve and Don were tremendous leaders and partners in those early days of Perkins International. They helped Perkins develop a sustainable model that we’ve now taken to 67 countries around the world. They saw the potential in our organization.”
Hilton, who will retire as Hilton Foundation president and CEO at the end of the year but will remain board chairman, credited Hubbs as the “visionary” who first reached out to then-Perkins Director Kevin Lessard to explore the possibilities of a partnership.
“We at the Hilton Foundation were confident that Perkins was not just a good school, but a great school,” he said. “We look at ourselves as investors. You want to do your homework first – and we did. And we felt confident that Perkins had the right talent…and an incredible history. I feel fortunate that Don Hubbs made that call and the Foundation made an investment. It made this a better world and I think that you do God’s work. Thank you.”
The Howe-Fisher Founders Award is named after two luminaries in Perkins School for the Blind’s storied 186-year history: Samuel Gridley Howe, who was Perkins’ first director, and John Dix Fisher, who founded Perkins in 1829 as the first school for the blind in the United States.