Ken Quinn (’64) Retires as President of the World Food Prize Foundation

By Tony Diaz (’21)

Ken Quinn, Ph.D. (’64) recently retired as president from the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa after 20 years. Quinn has been an excellent example of what success looks like after life as a Duhawk.

After graduating from Loras College with a political science degree, Dr. Quinn earned his Master’s degree from Marquette University before he found himself working in Washington, D.C. in 1974 as part of Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council staff. While at the White House, he also served as personal interpreter in Vietnamese for President Ford during meetings in the Cabinet Room as South Vietnam was collapsing. His 32-year State Department career culminated in assignment as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia from 1996 to 1999.

In 1999, Dr. Quinn returned to Iowa to assume leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation, where he initially had one person on staff. The Borlaug Dialogue symposium, the foundations signature event, saw only 25 to 50 people from outside Iowa attended the event. However, over the last 20 years, the annual symposium has seen attendance balloon to over 1,500 and has been referred to as “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”

The foundation also led the $30 million campaign to restore the 19th Century Des Moines Public Library Building and its conversion to the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. During his tenure in May 2014, Quinn became the 23rd person ever to receive the Iowa Medal, the state’s highest civilian award.

Dr. Quinn credits his Loras education for impacting many of the decisions and actions he took during his life.

“During the Vietnam War, my Catholic education at Loras caused me to volunteer to drive a wounded enemy down a dangerous road late at night. That same Catholic, moral education came to bear when a captured female agent was about to be tortured to reveal information about the location of enemy forces, but I intervened to prevent the torture from occurring.”

Dr. Quinn is still highly engaged and connected with Loras and is pleased to work closely with President Jim Collins (’84) and the alumni office to promote the College in the Des Moines area. He hopes to write about his career and experiences, and do various speaking engagements.