Great Swedish Heritage Award and
America’s Swede of the Year Award
Bringing attention to the noteworthy contributions of Swedes and Swedish Americans is an important part of Swedish Council of America’s mission. In 1980 at the Radisson South Hotel, just outside of Minneapolis, SCA sponsored the first Great Swedish Heritage Award Banquet celebrating the achievements of seven Americans of Swedish descent. Each recipient of the award—in fields ranging from education to entertainment to business—received an engraved crystal eagle symbolizing the pride of all Swedish-Americans share for their contributions. At that same event, SCA began a tradition of recognizing the accomplishments of a Swedish citizen by presenting America’s Swede of the Year Award.
The success of the first awards banquet convinced the SCA Board of Directors to sponsor the 1981 Great Swedish Heritage Awards Banquet one year later in Chicago. At that event, two Swedes were honored; one, Raoul Wallenberg, was presented the award in absentia.
The 1982 Great Swedish Heritage Awards Banquet took place at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. At that event, five awards were presented in the presence of Their Majesties, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.
In 1984, the awards banquet was part of a multifaceted and highly successful “Sweden Week in Seattle.” Again, royalty was present: Princess Lillian graciously received America’s Swede of the Year Award on behalf of her husband, Prince Bertil.
Two years later in 1986, the awards dinner became an awards luncheon, taking place in Washington, DC, as SCA honored Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist and Swedish Ambassador Wilhelm Wachtmeister, then dean of the diplomatic corps.
Two noteworthy educators, Edgar Carlson and Emory Lindquist, received the Great Swedish Heritage Award at the 1990 dinner, held in Dearborn, Michigan. America’s Swede of the Year was Swedish actor Max von Sydow, who interrupted a busy season on the stage of Stockholm’s Royal Theatre in order to be present.
The last decade saw a diverse group of honorees for the Great Swedish Heritage Award. In 1992, Viveca Lindfors, actress and author, received the award and in 1994 the honor was given to the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Richard Oldenburg. The business leaders Rudolph A. Peterson and Curtis L. Carlson received the award in 1996.
Swedish Council of America returned to Seattle, Washington, in 2002 for the awards celebration. At this gala event, Marilyn Carlson Nelson received the Great Swedish Heritage Award and Dr. Hans Wigzell received the America’s Swede of the Year Award.
In 2005 the awards dinner took place at the Union League in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where H.E. Jan Eliasson, Ambassador of Sweden to the United States, received the America’s Swede of the Year Award andAgneta Nilsson, founder of SWEA, received the Great Swedish Heritage Award.
On the occasion of the Conference of Swedish America held in Karlstad, Sweden, in 2006, SCA was pleased to present the America’s Swede of the Year Award to Ingemar Eliasson, Marshal of the Realm and former Governor of Värmland.
In 2008, SCA’s Board of Directors presented the final Great Swedish Heritage Award to Barbro Osher at the Ulla “Lotta” Wiik Auditorium at San Diego State University. After that event, it was decided to combine the America’s Swede of the Year Award and the SCA Great Swedish Heritage Award into the SCA Great Achievement Award, which would honor the outstanding contributions of Swedes or Swedish-North Americans. On April 9, 2011,Swedish Council presented its first SCA Great Achievement Award to Mrs. Siri Eliason in Portland, OR.