Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


Press Release

April 26, 2012

Janet Keating, 304-522-0246
Maria Gunnoe, 304-245-8481

OVEC’s Maria Gunnoe to Receive Wallenberg Medal

BOB WHITE, W.Va. – Boone County resident Maria Gunnoe will be awarded the twenty-second University of Michigan Wallenberg Medal in October. The award is named for UM alumni Raoul Wallenberg, who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II.

Gunnoe, an organizer with the Huntington, W.Va.-based environmental group OVEC, is receiving the medal because, “through her extraordinary work and personal engagement, she exemplifies the courage and commitment to the humanitarian values of Raoul Wallenberg,” according to a university announcement regarding the award.

Other recipients of the Wallenberg Medal include Aung San Suu Kyi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.

“Maria is not only an extraordinary woman, but also an incredible role model for the people of West Virginia. She refuses to sit idly by while those in power turn a blind eye to the impacts of mountaintop removal on people’s health, homes and communities,” said OVEC Executive Director Janet Keating. “We are so proud of her and are grateful to the University of Michigan for recognizing her efforts on behalf of the people of our mountain state.”

Gunnoe will be awarded the Wallenberg Medal on Tuesday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m., in a ceremony in MU’s Rackham Auditorium. After the medal presentation, Gunnoe will give the Wallenberg Lecture.

Gunnoe said, “It is simply astounding that the University of Michigan community understands that mountaintop removal is a humanitarian issue, even as our state and federal representatives speak of finding ‘balance.’ To them, ‘balance’ is letting the coal industry do whatever it wants, while we struggle daily to protect our lives and our very existence.”

For her work to end mountaintop removal coal mining, Gunnoe has received several awards. She is a 2006 recipient of the Joe Calloway Award for Civic Courage created by the Washington DC-based Shafeek Nader Trust for The Community. She was awarded the Rain Forest Action Network’s David vs. Goliath award to honor her for her efforts to create a sustainable world. In March 2008, Maria was selected as a Sierra Club Law Program Hero.  In April 2009, Maria was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. On February 28, 2010 she received the David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award from the Land, Air, Water Association, the nation's oldest student environmental law society.

Read more about the Wallenberg Medal, Raoul Wallenberg and Maria’s Gunnoe’s background and work here: www.wallenberg.umich.edu/gunnoe.html

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