Monday, February 3, 2020


Vilcek Foundation Honors Judge Katzmann ’80

The Vilcek Foundation has awarded the 2020 Vilcek Prize for Excellence to the Honorable Robert A. Katzmann ’80. Judge Katzmann is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Born to a father who fled Nazi Germany and a mother from an immigrant family, Judge Katzmann has long been aware of the role the courts play in the lives of immigrants, as well as the transformative effects of citizenship and legal status. Early in his judicial career he observed the widespread lack of competent representation for non-citizens — especially among those in need, and the adverse impact on their cases’ outcomes. Judge Katzmann inspired the formation of a Study Group on Immigrant Representation, from which emanated several pathbreaking initiatives. In 2014, Judge Katzmann spearheaded the creation of the Immigrant Justice Corps, a not-for- profit organization and the United States’ first fellowship program to train recent law school graduates to provide high-quality legal assistance to immigrants in need.

The recipient of the Vilcek Prize for Excellence receives a commemorative award and an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000. In accepting the Vilcek Prize for Excellence, Judge Katzmann declined the cash prize. The Vilcek Foundation will honor Judge Katzmann’s request to donate the prize money to a not-for-profit organization that provides direct services to immigrants in need in the United States.

The Vilcek Prizes are an extension of the foundation’s mission to raise awareness of immigrant contributions to the arts, culture, and scientific discoveries in the United States.

The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation, to honor immigrant contributions to the United States, and more broadly, to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences, was inspired by the couple’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history.