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April 16: The Goldman Environmental Prize

April 15, 2015
BAgoldmanARTRichard Goldman, who with his wife Rhoda founded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1989, was born on this date in 1920. The two were San Franciscoans who grew up down the street from one another. In 1949, Richard founded Goldman Insurance Services, which became a major insurance brokerage firm. Rhoda was a descendant of Levi Strauss and served on the board of the apparel company and its philanthropic foundation. In 1951, the Goldmans launched their own foundation, which distributed $700 million to 2,600 nonprofit organizations. Their environmental prize, established in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the murder of Brazilian rubber tapper and environmental activist Chico Mendes, is sometimes nicknamed the “Green Nobel.” Six awards of up to $150,000 are given annually to environmental activists representing six regions of the world; the prize has gone to activists from more than 70 countries. Richard Goldman died in 2011; Rhoda in 1996. While their prize is still given annually, their philanthropy shut down in 2012, with its remaining $280 million in assets distributed among foundations run by their children. “When Rhoda and I got married, it sounds corny, but we said we wanted to make the world a better place.” —Richard Goldman