News & Ideas  -  Kettering Foundation Awards Fellowship to Kathleen Sebelius

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Former HHS secretary first to receive David Mathews Democracy Fellowship Award


The Charles F. Kettering Foundation today announced it is awarding its first David Mathews Democracy Fellowship Award to former Kansas Governor and Obama administration Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius, who served as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2014, has shown a commitment to selfless public service and leadership. The David Mathews Democracy Fellowship will be bestowed upon leaders who, like Sebelius, have had distinguished careers. Candidates will be chosen from government, philanthropy, higher education, and other fields. Their experiences and insights will, in turn, enrich and enhance the Kettering Foundation’s research and activities on behalf of democracy.

For the past four decades, the foundation’s research and programs have focused on the needs of democracy worldwide. Today, the organization is committing itself to advancing inclusive democracies by fostering democratic citizen engagement, promoting government accountability and countering authoritarianism.

The Fellowship honors the charitable and civic work of David Mathews, who served as president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation from 1981 to 2022 and was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Ford administration. While at Kettering, he led the foundation’s research, focusing on the capacity of citizens to govern themselves and resolve their common problems. He wrote extensively on citizen-centered democracy and is the author of eight books.

Sharon Davies, president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, praised Sebelius’ record of leadership at the state and national levels. “The foundation is honored that Secretary Sebelius will be the first-ever recipient of the David Mathews Democracy Fellowship Award. As the former Governor of Kansas and the Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius has unique insights about the needs of democracy at a moment when it is being tested worldwide. We are excited to engage with and learn from her.”

“It is an honor and an unexpected tribute to be named the Kettering Foundation’s inaugural David Mathews Democracy Fellow. I’m proud to share the ‘wall of Secretaries’ at the HHS headquarters with David Mathews and pleased that the board has created a living legacy as a tribute to his decades of service at the Kettering Foundation,” said Sebelius. “At this pivotal time in American democracy, the Kettering Foundation’s work to champion democracy is more important than ever.”