OCTOBER 24, 2024


The William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Political Thought


The William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty

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About The Honorees

Kim Dennis is receiving the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty for her steadfast dedication to the ideas and principles championed by Bill Buckley, and especially her exceptional efforts during her remarkable career to promote liberty through philanthropy. After graduating from Bowdoin College Kim became a social worker in northern Maine, where her experience with the counterproductive effects of the U.S. welfare system led her to seek the education she never received in college, starting with the works of writers like Richard Cornuelle, Milton Friedman, Irving Kristol, and Bill Buckley. This interest in conservative and libertarian ideas soon led her to the John M. Olin Foundation, where she started as a secretary and eventually graduated to program officer. After five years at Olin and stints at the Pacific Research Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Dennis became the first executive director of the Philanthropy Roundtable. In her five years there the organization attracted a membership of some 450 grantmakers, who through its programs were introduced to ideas about how to use philanthropic resources to advance the cause of individual and economic freedom. Dennis and her colleague Whitney Ball later co-founded Donors Trust, a donor-advised fund that since its launch in 1999 has channeled more than $2 billion in donations to organizations that support the principles of liberty. In 1996 Dennis was hired by Daniel Searle to help craft a mission statement and governing document for his foundation. That turned into a part-time position running his foundation, along with a Searle-funded program at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2006 Dennis became the full-time president of the Searle Freedom Trust, a role she has held since and hopes to hold until the Trust sunsets in December of 2025. Dennis has been known throughout her career for her commitment to donor intent. When the Philanthropy Roundtable was founded donor intent was a little discussed concept. But owing to the tendency of foundations to drift to the left over time it became a rallying cry for conservative donors, and the Roundtable’s signature issue. Every foundation Dennis has either worked for or served on the board of (the John M. Olin Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, W.H. Brady Foundation, Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, and Beth and Ravenel Curry Foundation) either has or will shut its doors—the one sure way to prevent such drift. Donors Trust also requires its clients to sunset their accounts within 20 years after death. Dennis is proudest of her two children, Will and Jesse, whose commitment to the principles of liberty runs in the family blood.

Father Robert Sirico is receiving the William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Political Thought for his staunch support for the role of faith in public life, religious freedom, and the morality of free enterprise. Father Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute. In that capacity, he lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS’ 60 Minutes, among others.

About The Gala

For his entire life, Bill Buckley sought to preserve and buttress the foundations of our free society. To honor his achievement and inspire others, NRI’s Board of Trustees has created the William F. Buckley Jr. Prizes for Leadership in Political Thought and Leadership in Supporting Liberty. The William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner is an annual marquee event in the conservative movement that we move around the country each year to reach our broad base of supporters. Past galas hosted in New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, and Palm Beach have allowed us to connect with our supporters in those areas and grow our national enterprise. We look forward to returning to California this fall, an area of strategic importance for National Review Institute.

Today, National Review Institute is enhancing and expanding its programs to better fulfill its mission—from equipping young conservative professionals and journalists, to promoting the work of the nation’s foremost proponents of a free society. With your help NRI continues to spread its influence and reach.