The University of Chicago will honor Ed Yong, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist at The Atlantic, with the 2022 Benton Award for Distinguished Public Service. Yong will receive the award this fall at an event at the Harris School of Public Policy in recognition of his clear-eyed, evidence-based reporting and public service through education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will be a tremendous honor to present Ed Yong with the University of Chicago’s 2022 Benton Award for Distinguished Public Service,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and the Emmett Dedmon Professor at Harris Public Policy. “His ability to distill what we knew about the COVID-19 pandemic and a healthy respect for what we did not know helped drive better-informed and more nuanced decisions in public policy and our daily lives.”
Yong was chosen for the Benton Award following a faculty-led nomination process and the recommendation of a committee of scholars from across the University. The committee was chaired by Prof. Ariel Kalil and consisted of distinguished faculty from Harris; the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice; the Booth School of Business; the Law School; and the Department of Sociology.
“Ed Yong delivered extraordinarily high-quality science writing during a time of national crisis,” said Kalil, the Daniel Levin Professor at Harris. “His ability to translate complex science to the public and the rigor, judiciousness, and humility with which he has pursued this effort make him an extremely deserving choice for this year's award.”
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Yong has won numerous awards for his science writing, including the George Polk Award, the Victor Cohn Prize, and more. He is the author of two New York Times-bestselling books, including An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, released earlier this year.
Assoc. Prof. Joyce Bell, a UChicago sociology scholar who nominated Yong for the honor, wrote that his writing “was informative and realistic without feeding the frenetic energy created by the constant barrage of news about the pandemic.” She added: “The tone was incisive. It was critical of the country’s response. And it was honest about the seriousness of the situation at hand. But I still found it calming.”
Created in 1967 to honor Sen. William H. Benton, the Benton Award recognizes people who have rendered distinguished public service in the field of education, including accomplishments in communicating and disseminating knowledge to the general public. Previous recipients of the award have included Katharine Graham, AB’38, and Martin Baron of the Washington Post; Judge and former White House Chief of Staff Abner Mikva, JD’51; and Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois.
Yong will accept the award during a reception this fall and participate in events with the University community as part of the two-day Benton Lecture Residency.