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Affiliation: Alumna, MS '78
Susan Schroeder Seacrest


Susan Schroeder Seacrest

Susan Schroeder Seacrest, a Nebraska homemaker who turned her concern over the quality of local groundwater into a national campaign to educate policymakers, farmers, businesses, and students about drinking water pollution, was a co-recipient of the 13th annual $250,000 Heinz Award for the Environment, among the largest individual achievement prizes in the world.

Seacrest, who received a Master of Science (MS) in Education from the Warner School (formerly the College of Education) in 1978, came to greatly appreciate the power of education to create positive change. She combined her professional background as an educator with her passion for groundwater and founded the Groundwater Foundation, an organization that for more than a generation has been a driving force in improving the health of the nation’s groundwater.

The Heinz Award for the Environment honors individuals who have confronted environmental concerns with a spirit of innovation and who demonstrate the same blend of action and creativity in approaching the protection of our environment. Seacrest received this award for her spurring widespread education and action on groundwater safety.

As founder of the Groundwater Foundation, she has been instrumental in bringing about a wave of reform not only through the enactment of new laws but by eliciting voluntary changes in behavior by those involved in groundwater contamination. Through nonpolitical advocacy that emphasizes education and leverages the power of personal relationships, her efforts range from working with farmers and natural resources organizations to educate a large cross section of the public on how to reduce nitrate levels in Nebraska’s High Plains Aquifer to safer levels to educating children about the groundwater issues and how to make a difference in protecting water and other natural resources. Her education advocacy efforts have flowed well beyond her Great Plains home to all quarters of the nation.

Her expertise in groundwater education has been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through her appointments to several EPA advisory boards, including the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Council and two terms on the National Drinking Water Advisory Council. She also has made several keynote speaking appearances at conferences around the world, including a Water Issues briefing at the United Nations.

Past recipients of the Heinz Awards include marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, inventor and founder of the student robotics competition-FIRST, Dean Kamen, environmental advocate Peggy Shepard, medical anthropologist Paul Farmer, artist and community activist Rick Lowe, and Paul Anastas, a leader in the “green chemistry” movement.

Seacrest was among six distinguished Americans to share the $1.25 million in awards, presented in five categories by the Heinz Family Foundation. She received her award at a private ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pa.

For more information about Seacrest or to learn more about the importance of environmental education, visit the Heinz Awards Web site at www.heinzawards.net.

(Published September 2007)