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Technology innovators presented with Smithsonian awards

By Linda Rosencrance
June 8, 2000 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- As the recipients -- or "the new heroes," as they're called -- of the 12th annual Computerworld Smithsonian Awards took the stage at the National Building Museum on Monday to accept their coveted trophies, one could almost sense the presence of the people for whom the building was originally erected -- the heroes who went to war to ensure the right of every citizen to think and create.
Built in the 1880s by civil engineer and U.S. Army General Montgomery C. Meigs, the museum initially housed the U.S. Pension Bureau. It was where retired soldiers who fought for the North in the Civil War as part of the Grand Army of the Republic went to pick up their pension benefits.
And during this year's Smithsonian Awards ceremony -- which honored individuals, organizations and companies for their outstanding uses of technology to benefit society -- it was hard not to think about those soldiers and their sacrifices when the trophies were handed out to people such as:

  • Professor Mandla Mchunu and the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa in Pretoria, which figured out ways to hold free and fair elections in that country.
  • Devan Shepherd and the National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis, which helped improve the lives of cancer victims by improving their chances of living with bone marrow from unrelated donors.
  • Graham S. Hawkes and Hawkes Ocean Technology in Redmond, Calif., which developed 3-D design tools that helped create a small, inexpensive submersible craft to enable scientists to explore the ocean depths.
  • Dara McCormick Feldman, Bonny Chambers and the Montgomery County Schools in Maryland, which used computers to enhance early childhood education.

As those award winners and others cited for their technological breakthroughs and leadership qualities in the field of information technology stood on a stage in the middle of the museum's Great Hall, they were greeted with the cheers and admiration of their fellow nominees and other guests.
All accepted their awards with humility and grace, including Daniel Skala, executive vice president of Brussels-based Proton World International. Proton World won an award for developing smart-card technology that provides "electronic purses" to consumers for use in making secure payments in shops, at machines and via the Internet.
Skala brought the house down when he said he wanted to communicate to the audience in the most-used international language -- "bad English."
And as her grandfather, Max Hopper, accepted the last leadership award for his role in creating and developing the Sabre computerized reservations system -- which transformed the travel industry worldwide -- 4-year-old Carolyn Wassmer stood up and

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