WILMINGTON, Del. — Playwright August Wilson, TV adventurer Jacques Cousteau and TV and radio interviewer Larry King are among this year’s five winners of the Common Wealth awards.
This is the 15th year for the awards, given to individuals for achievement in various fields, and funded by the trust of Ralph Hayes, former Coca-Cola executive and New York Community Trust director. The other two honorees are former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, in the field of government, and geneticist Leland Hartwell, science and invention.
Each winner will receive $ 25,000 in a ceremony held by the trustee, the Bank of Delaware, on April 23 at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington.
Winners must appear in person, and some have said they agreed to come as much for the opportunity to meet fellow awardees as for the award itself.
There are nearly 100 former Common Wealth awardees. They include the late playwright Tennessee Williams, who made the shortest thank-you speech, saying he was going to take the money and run. Photographer Gordon Parks added the thanks of former wives to whom he pays alimony, and Ted Turner smiled as wife Jane Fonda upstaged him.
Of this year’s winners, Kissinger, 70, is known for having initiated detente with the former Soviet Union and opened relations with the People’s Republic of China when he was secretary of state under Richard Nixon. Cousteau, 83, pioneered undersea frontiers by developing underwater breathing apparatus and photographic techniques.
Wilson, 48, has won two Pulitzer Prizes and a Tony Award for plays that include “Fences,””The Piano Lesson” and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.”
Genetics research by Hartwell, 54, paved the way for understanding how human genes control cell growth. And in 1992, King, 60, added a new focus to national campaigns as host of the only worldwide call-in TV talkshow.