Image source: Light of Blue Photography

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, co-founder of Tompkins Conservation and former CEO of Patagonia, was awarded the 2023 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize by the American Prairie last week. The prize recognizes individuals who have advanced America’s heritage and spirit, and past winners include Maya Lin, Wynton Marsalis, and David McCullough. McDivitt Tompkins and her late husband, Douglas Tompkins, have played a pivotal role in the protection of over 14.8 million acres of parklands in Argentina and Chile, and their work continues to expand. The new documentary Wild Life, directed by Oscar-winning duo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, explores McDivitt Tompkins’ incredible career.

At the prize presentation in New York City, McDivitt Tompkins spoke about the importance of deciding to do something meaningful and participating in your own story, while Ken Burns emphasized the dangers of careerism and the need to avoid abdicating responsibility. McDivitt Tompkins also discussed her leadership style, which involves creating teams that are independent and self-sufficient, while burns spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship and the American Dream.

Re-reported from the story originally published in

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