Sam Hodgson/The New York Times

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a speaking engagement at New York University School of Law in New York on Feb. 5, 2018.

October 30, 2019

Alumna Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 Receives $1 Million Berggruen Prize

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The 2019 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, an award that is given annually to a thinker whose ideas “have profoundly shaped human understanding and advancement” according to the website, was awarded to 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54, otherwise known as the notorious RBG.

Since its inception in 2016, the Berggruen Prize has been awarded to four outstanding nominees, three of whom were women, who accumulated great success in their fields and contributed to societal advancement. The past three years’ awardees were Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, British philosopher Onora O’Neill, and American philosopher and college professor Martha Nussbaum, in order.

Ginsburg has served on the Supreme Court for more than 26 years, devoting her life to fighting for human rights and gender equality. Out of a pool of more than 500 nominees for the award, Ginsburg emerged.

The Berggruen Institute cited her work in the 1970s with the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. A trailblazer for the cause, Ginsburg brought six cases to the Supreme Court that transformed the lives of women in America.

“Throughout her career, Ginsburg has used the law to advance ethical and philosophical principles of equality and human rights as basic tenets of the USA. Her contributions have shaped our way of life and way of thinking and have demonstrated to the world the importance of the rule of law in disabling discrimination,” the group stated.

The prize came amidst the increased media exposure and public attention to Ginsburg, who despite undergoing treatment for a tumor in her pancreas in August, maintains a strong liberal voice on the partisan Supreme Court.

Not only has Ginsburg  became a cultural icon, a subject of workout regimens, coffee mugs and Halloween costumes, she dominates the screens of both a popular movie, “On the Basis of Sex” — detailing Ginsburg’s work with the American Civil Liberties Union and her contributions to the fight for gender equality — and a documentary, “RBG,” which features an interview with Ginsburg and provides audience with a glimpse of what life is like working as a justice on the Supreme Court.

“By grit and determination, brains, courage, compassion, and a fiery commitment to justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg rose from modest beginnings to become one of the most respected, and most beloved, jurists of our time. She inspires women and men of all ages to realize that a democracy thrives to the extent that it provides every citizen equal footing to achieve their dreams” and “has few peers in advancing the cause of human equality through the law,” remarked Amy Gutman, President of the University of Pennsylvania and Juror of Berggruen Prize, in the official announcement.

Ginsburg will receive the award in December at a private ceremony in New York. According to the organization, Ginsburg plans to donate the $1 million to charities and non-profit organizations of her choice.