Age 31 | Director of national education programs,
The World Food Prize Foundation
Keegan Kautzky took some advice from Norman Borlaug about 13 years ago, and he hasn’t had a lot of sleep since.
The run-up to events at the World Food Prize and meeting deadlines for its various education programs means little time for sleep. But Kautzky seems little intimidated. In fact, when he talks about the foundation’s mission of feeding the world’s hungry, he is fresh and full of enthusiasm.
“We always hear from people how we changed their life. That is why we don’t get tired; we don’t get worn down,” Kautzky said.
Kautzky said he was a college student with an interest in political science and international affairs when he met Borlaug. The famed agronomist wanted to know what the young college student planned to do with his life. Kautzky replied that he was interested in philanthropy.
“He said you can’t make a difference in the world until you understand what is happening and understand the realities of what we are facing … until you know the depth, you can’t make a contribution,” Kautzky said. “At the end of it, he concluded that I wasn’t doing enough with my life.”
Borlaug told Kautzky to return to Iowa State University, change his major, and that the next time the two met, Borlaug wanted to know “how we are going to change the world.”
Borlaug also told Kautzky to go to South Africa, and he did, telling his mother and grandmother that he probably wouldn’t be returning to Iowa.
Then he received a phone call from Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation. He said that among Borlaug’s wishes for the foundation was to establish programs for high school and college students that would provide insights into poverty and hunger.
Five reasons he’s a 40:
• Led the World Food Prize Foundation’s national expansion.
• Leveraged a $750,000 program budget to attract $3 million in investments and matching funds for educational, research and science, technology, engineering and math training for high school students and teachers.
• Advised the National Council on Agricultural Education and the National FFA Organization in developing the first global strategy for agriculture education in the United States.
• Founder and chairman of Pages of Promise, a student-run charity that collects textbooks and other reading materials in the United States and distributes them in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Member of the Community Food Security Coalition.
Mentor: Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation
Fun fact: Kautzky planned to settle in South Africa.