At the end of January, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) announced that former Governor Tom Ridge received the 2022 William Oliver Baker Award.
Ridge is the namesake of Mercyhurst’s Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences.
The Baker Award was originally established in 1984 and is the highest honor presented by INSA. This award recognizes extraordinary contributions to U.S. intelligence and national security affairs.
INSA Chair Tish Long stated that, “when our nation came under attack, [Ridge] stepped up and helped create a national strategy to coordinate homeland security efforts across all of government. The foundational approach he established prioritized critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity and importantly, recognized that information sharing between states, federal and private sector was an integral component in reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism and natural disaster.”
Ridge was born in Pittsburgh, PA, but raised in Erie, PA. After receiving a scholarship, he graduated from Harvard with honors in 1967. He attended one year of law school before being drafted into the U.S. Army where he became an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam.
Ridge also earned the Bronze Star of Valor for his service. He returned to Erie and was elected to Congress in 1982 and proceeded to be reelected five times.
Next in his career, Ridge went on to serve as the 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania from 19952001.
Ridge’s career was not over yet, as he was then named the first director of the Office of Homeland Security in 2001. President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Security after the 9/11 attacks and felt that Ridge would be a great fit for the director position.
Bush tasked Ridge with establishing a coordinated national approach to protect the United States from terrorist threats.
After the Homeland Security Act of 2002 passed, Ridge became the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS was the largest reorganization of government since the Truman administration.
Ridge worked with more than 180,000 employees from a combined 22 agencies to create a new cabinet agency. This cabinet facilitates the flow of people and goods; instituted layered security at air, land and seaports; developed a unified national response and recovery plan; protected critical infrastructure; integrated new technology; and improved information sharing worldwide.
Ridge is currently serving as the chairman of the National Organization on Disability, co-chairman of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense and serves on the board of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
Ridge can add this award to the long list of awards that he has received throughout his career. He has been awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, the John F. Kennedy National Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
The official ceremony where Ridge will be presented his award will be on Saturday, May 14. Registration is now open to those who want to attend the ceremony and students must be 21 years old to attend.