The New York Society For Ethical Culture presents several awards to outstanding citizens and institutions:

Ethical Humanist Award

The Ethical Humanist Award is the Society’s highest honor. The Award was established in 1970 to honor an individual who has acted with extraordinary moral courage, without regard for the sanction or acclaim of his or her peers or of society, and whose actions have had broad humanizing implications. Since 1970, the award has been presented just 16 times. Recipients of the Ethical Humanist Award are:

2016 – Planned Parenthood for its tireless and passionate advocacy policies and services that enable Americans to access comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, education, and information for the last one hundred years.

2012- Irshad Manji for her courageous and steadfast advocacy of progressive and humane reform within contemporary Islamic Culture.

2007 – Matthew LaClair for courageously standing up to defend the principle of Religious Freedom and Separation of Church and State in the face of extreme opposition from his peers, teachers and Principal.

2005 – David Kaczynski for his courage in identifying his brother to authorities as the Unabomber, and for his continuing activism against the death penalty in New York State.

2003 – Senator James M. Jeffords (I-VT) for following his conscience and changing his lifelong party affiliation, from Republican to Independent.

1999 – Marian Leonard Tompson, a co-founder of La Leche League International. Her tireless work has led to the improved health of millions of children worldwide.

1998 – Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold for their commitment to the Campaign Finance Reform Bill.

1997 – Senator Paul Wellstone, Mary Jo Bane, and Peter Edelman for their courageous actions in protesting the 1996 “Welfare Reform” legislation.

1996 – Jeffrey Wigand for his courageous actions in revealing tobacco company research and policies harmful to the public good.

1995 – Mario Cuomo for his courageous opposition, during his twelve years as Governor, to the reinstitution of the death penalty in New York State.

1985 – A. Ernest Fitzgerald for upholding integrity in government by courageously opposing waste and corruption in military procurement.

1983 – Hugh B. Kaufman for his courageous efforts to protect our national lands from contamination and his tireless devotion to the public welfare.

1979 – Dorothy Day for the pursuit of social justice for the poor and commitment to religious and political ecumenism.

1978 – Percy Qoboza for his pursuit of justice and human rights on behalf of the oppressed peoples of South Africa.

1977 – Orlando Letelier (posthumously) for his pursuit of fundamental personal and democratic freedoms in Chile.

1975 – Sgt. Bruce Wright for his advocacy of equal application of the law for all.

1973 – Joseph A. Yablonski (posthumously) for his fight against corruption in the United Mine Workers of America.

1972 – Capt. Howard B. Levy, MD for refusing to train Special Forces troops to serve in Vietnam.

1971 – Assemblyman George M. Michaels for his deciding vote ensuring enactment of New York State’s Abortion Reform Law.

1970 – Michael A. Bernhardt for refusing to participate in the massacre at My Lai.

Dr. Phyllis Harrison-Ross
Public Service Award

The award was established in 2012 by the Trustees of the New York Society for Ethical Culture to honor the lifetime of achievement and contributions to public service by the late Dr. Phyllis Harrison-Ross (dec. 2017), a long-time member of the Society and Chairperson of the Social Service Board. The Award is given in recognition of outstanding public service of elected or appointed individuals who have established or enhanced programs that improve conditions and foster the wellbeing of citizens, especially those in disadvantaged communities. It honors public servants who exemplify good governance, especially when it means taking personal or political risks.

2019Honorable Rep. Jerrold Nadler, U.S. Congressman (NY-10); Lee Gelernt, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project

2016 – Honorable Eric Holder, 82nd US Attorney General, and US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

2015 – Public Service Forum – Marc Morial (President National Urban League), Hon. Barney Frank ( former US Congressman), Sherry Glied (Dean of NY University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service), and Steven Cohen, Executive Director Columbia University Earth Institute and distinguished professor)

2014 – Honorable David Dinkins, 106th NY Mayor, and Mecca Santana, NY State Director of Diversity

Frank B. Prescod
Community Service Award

In 2001, the Society began giving a second award, in addition to the Ethical Humanist Award.  The award was created to honor those who perform good works away from the limelight.  It is periodically given to individuals and institutions that have given special, but publicly unnoted service over the years to improving the lives and community of all New Yorkers. Past recipients of the Community Service Award are:

2014- The Fortune Society’s mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.

2010 – Abe Markman, Former Chair of the NYSEC Public Issues Committee, for devoting his life to serving the disadvantaged and advocating equality for all.

2008 – Mike O’Neal, Owner of O’Neal’s Restaurant,  for his longstanding service to the Upper West Side and New York City. He took a stand in support of the smoking ban in restaurants and bars, unpopular among most in his industry.  He has long been active in the West Side Chamber of Commerce, the Riverside Park Fund, the Westside Crime Prevention Program, Lincoln Square BID, and Project Find among other organizations.

2004 – Nicholas D’Agostino, Jr.
, Chairman of D’Agostino Supermarkets, for support of important city programs including the generous donation of thousands of pounds of food to City Harvest and Citymeals-on-Wheels.

2002 – Michal A. Rebell, Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the law firm of Simpson Thatcher and Bartlett for seeking reform for New York State’s educational finance system their importantwork in seeking to reapportion New York State’s funding for schools, which shortchanges New York City’s schoolchildren.  .

2001 – Burton Freeman, Founder of My Own Book Fund, for the creation, sponsorship, and implementation of this program that fosters child literacy and a love of reading.  The Fund provides $50 book-buying allowances and sponsors trips to bookstores for underserved third graders in New York City schools.