Wendy Schmidt: 2019
Businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, who has built an incredible portfolio of work devoted to our oceans made possible through the many organizations she has founded, led, and inspired, is the 2019 recipient of the America and the Sea Award. The award is presented by Mystic Seaport Museum to individuals and organizations whose extraordinary achievements in the world of maritime exploration, competition, scholarship, and design best exemplify the American character.
“We are delighted to honor Wendy’s passion for and dedication to the sea,” said Mystic Seaport Museum President Steve White. “She stands as an exemplar for maritime studies and stewardship, and thus it is an honor for us to call more attention to her noteworthy work.”
Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which supports programs in renewable energy, healthy food and agriculture, and human rights. Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, an additional foundation program, supports the development of new ocean technologies with applications for conservation and research in areas including habitat health, marine plastic pollution, and sustainable fisheries. Schmidt has worked to advance the science and knowledge about the impact that climate change is having on ocean health and sea level, something directly affecting Mystic Seaport Museum.
In March, Mystic Seaport Museum announced an initiative to work toward eliminating single-use plastics on its 19-acre site on the Mystic River. The program is being developed and implemented through the leadership of a staff Sustainability Committee in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.
Schmidt is co-founder, with her husband, Eric, of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which operates the research vessel Falkor, a mobile platform to advance ocean exploration and discovery, using open source data to catalyze the sharing of information about the oceans. Since 2013, more than 500 scientists from 165 institutions and 30 countries have conducted research on R/V Falkor.
She has sponsored two XPRIZE Challenge Prizes focused on ocean health and currently serves as the lead philanthropic partner of the New Plastics Economy Initiative, driven by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Schmidt has extended her oceans-focused work to the sporting world through 11th Hour Racing, partnering with the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team to put sustainability at the core of their operations, empowering race managers and athletes to be leaders and spokespeople on restoring ocean health.
In 2017, the Schmidts launched the Schmidt Science Fellows program, a post-doctoral fellowship that provides the next generation of leaders and innovators with the tools and opportunities to drive world-changing advances across the sciences and society. With an initial commitment from Schmidt Futures of at least $25M for the first three years, the effort is the beginning of a broader $100 million commitment to promote scientific leadership and interdisciplinary research.
A black tie gala was held in Schmidt’s honor in New York City Wednesday, October 30, 2019. This affair is the premier fund-raising event for Mystic Seaport Museum. Past recipients of the America and the Sea Award include America’s Cup sailor Dawn Riley, philanthropist and environmentalist David Rockefeller Jr.; oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle; historian David McCullough; legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens; President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas Crowley; philanthropist William Koch; former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman; WoodenBoat Publications founder Jon Wilson; yachtsman and author Gary Jobson; maritime industrialist Charles A. Robertson; author Nathaniel Philbrick; and Rod and Bob Johnstone and their company J/Boats.