The Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute presented the Woodrow Wilson Award to Michael Yanney and Ambassador James Collins in recognition of their contributions to corporate and public service related to U.S.-Russia relations at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Awards Dinner on November 30, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Michael Yanney was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship for his role in expanding understanding between Russians and Americans. He built on early projects in Russian agriculture and telecommunications to form a venture capital fund of over $100 million in the 1990s. Beyond trade, Mike Yanney has been a champion of supporting arts exchanges between our countries, and today he is a key participant in the Dartmouth Dialogues, sustaining citizen-to-citizen contacts at a time when U.S.-Russian political discourse has ground to a halt.

In accepting the award, Yanney recalled a meeting with Patriarch Alexey and discussing the peace process in Yugoslavia. “What will bring peace?” asked Patriarch Alexey. “Tanks and missiles won’t bring peace, it will not work. Only education and economic development are the key to sustainable peace.” Yanney agreed with that approach, and called for increased cooperation with Russia and investments in education: “We will not win by having the best military, but by working together.”

Ambassador James Collins was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in recognition of his decades of public service inside government and out. Widely regarded as the dean of Washington “Russia hands,” his impressive legacy includes service as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 1997-2001 and in other senior posts during key moments of the Cold War and its aftermath. Since leaving the State Department, he has continued to be a key figure in helping the United States understand Russia, from his work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to his service on the boards of some of the most important organizations devoted to U.S.-Russian engagement: the U.S.-Russia Business Council, the American Councils for International Education, the Open World Leadership Center, CRDF Global, Moscow’s Library of Foreign Literature, and as co-chairman of the board of the U.S.-Russia Foundation.

In accepting the award, Collins noted that there is a profound absence of trust between Russia and the United States, and we need to overcome it. To that end, he added, “Think tanks need to create a space for betterment of the situation, and institutions like the Kennan Institute, the Wilson Center, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are creating such spaces.”

The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Awards Dinner is an annual event that recognizes individuals demonstrating outstanding and enlightened corporate citizenship and public service in connection with the U.S.-Russian relationship, and is the premier Washington event dedicated to this purpose. The event is a benefit for the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, a national resource for Russian studies in the United States.


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