Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences recognized Emmy award-winning entertainer and philanthropist Kathie Lee Gifford and Dean Emeritus June Henton at the 28th annual International Quality of Life Awards on Dec. 6 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tn.
The International Quality of Life Awards, or IQLA, proudly honors people and partnerships who have made significant and lasting contributions to individual, family, and community well-being locally and around the world. The College of Human Sciences recognized Gifford and Henton for their strong commitment to empowerment through public policy, educational programs, and community engagement to enhance quality of life.
“We’re here tonight to honor two people who each found their purpose, worked hard to accomplish seemingly larger-than-life goals and in their success, always made time to lift up lives around them—making a profound difference, not only in their communities, but in the world,” said College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard. “Kathie Lee Gifford and Dr. June Henton set the bar high. They each continue to reach the height of professional careers and new ventures, while making significant and lasting change through their philanthropic efforts. Inspiring examples to each of us and particularly the future generation.”
Larry Gatlin, Grammy-winning country music artist, presented the IQLA Laureate Award to Kathie Lee Gifford. Gifford was honored for her philanthropic endeavors to improve quality of life for children and families.
Through her partnership with the Association to Benefit Children, which provides family-based programming to support healthy childhood development, Gifford and her late husband, sports icon Frank Gifford, helped establish Cassidy’s Place and Cody House, named after their children, to provide respite care, education, and shelter for children in need. For more than two decades, Gifford has served as an ambassador for Childhelp, which prevents and treats child abuse, and as the spokesperson for Childhelp’s “Speak Up Be Safe” abuse prevention education curriculum.
Gifford also supports the New York City Rescue Mission, the International Justice Mission, the Salvation Army, and the Dream Center.
As co-host of “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” and on the fourth hour of “Today,” alongside Hoda Kotb, Gifford earned four Emmy awards and uplifted audiences as a broadcaster for more than 25 years. In 2015, Gifford was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and earlier this year, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After 11 years as a face of “Today,” Gifford stepped down from that role to pursue other creative endeavors.
A playwright, producer, singer, songwriter, and actress, Gifford has starred in numerous television programs and movies in her 45-year career. She has written musicals, starred on Broadway, authored five New York Times bestselling books, and in 2019, made her directorial debut with “The God Who Sees” oratorio. Last fall, Gifford released “Then Came You,” a film she wrote, produced, and starred in alongside Craig Ferguson. Gifford also co-wrote the score for the film.
Gifford views her celebrity as an opportunity for good and credits her strong philanthropic spirit to her upbringing and faith.
“We didn’t have anything growing up, but what we did have, we shared. What you put into a child is what you get out. What you put into your body is how you feel. What you think about is what becomes,” Gifford said. “We are born into privilege to be a blessing to others. I thought that if I ever got to a point where I was well-known, it’s so the Lord can use me to show people how much He loves them.”
Horst Schulze, co-founder and former president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Capella Hotel Group CEO, presented the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award to June Henton. Schulze has served on the Dean’s Advisory Board for both Henton and Hubbard, and throughout Henton’s tenure, was instrumental in shaping the renowned Auburn University Hospitality Management program. In 1994, Henton awarded Schulze one of the inaugural IQLA Laureate awards.
“I feel so honored to have been chosen with all of the wonderful Lifetime Achievement Award honorees we’ve had in the past. I feel very humbled to be a part of that group now, and I knew it was going to be a great event,” Henton said. “Horst and I have been friends for so many years and he is my hero in so many ways. He is the one who told us we had to differentiate ourselves and that’s what he helped us do.”
For more than three decades, Henton elevated the teaching, research, and outreach of the College of Human Sciences. Her visionary leadership produced classes of globally aware alumni who excelled in their chosen fields.
During her tenure, Henton was instrumental in launching the National Textile Center University Research Consortium, the International Board of Advisors, the Elmer and Glenda Harris Early Learning Center, the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program, Women’s Philanthropy Board, Hunger Solutions Institute, Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, and the International Quality of Life Awards.
For her work to end food insecurity, Henton was honored federally as a White House Champion of Change, recognized by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, and received the Ellen Swallow Richards Public Service Award and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Board on Human Sciences.
Additionally, the U.S. Green Building Council of Alabama honored Henton for her leadership in sustainability. Her most recent recognition was the Pamela Wells Sheffield Award, presented to “a woman who best embodies selfless service and commitment to Auburn University and the Auburn family.”
Henton holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University, a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota. The University of Guelph awarded Henton an honorary Doctor of Law degree for her efforts to end hunger and improve quality of life for youth around the world.
College of Human Sciences students attended the awards gala as CHS ambassadors as part of the IQLA Study Tour. The tour is an educational enrichment opportunity in which students experience the art, design, food, families, and culture of IQLA’s host city through venue visits. In Nashville, students toured Gaylord Opryland, saw a Grand Ole Opry Show and went backstage, took a secret food tour, and traveled down Music City’s local business-lined 12th Avenue.
Apparel design senior Asia Howard said the tour was not only a great experience to see Nashville, but also allowed her to supplement her studies and represent the College of Human Sciences in a new way.
“The IQLA Study Tour was absolutely amazing. I’ve never done anything like this before. I was able to see a lot of apparel designers in 12South, some who produce artisanal jeans and jewelry, so it was really cool to see that and all of the local boutiques,” Howard said. “I’m a student recruiter for Auburn so I have experience talking with people and representing the university, but not in this capacity.”
Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave noted the gravity of gathering for IQLA in-person. Last year, the College of Human Sciences hosted a virtual celebration honoring the Heroes of COVID-19.
“The fact that we are gathered again, filling a room with life, networking and celebrating two people who improve this world in the way they live and work, is significant after all of our worlds changed in early 2020,” Hardgrave said. “We pay tribute to the Auburn University College of Human Sciences for carrying on and hosting this annual celebration of the human spirit, emphasizing how together, we can change lives for the better.”
To close the sold-out ceremony, Dean Susan Hubbard invited guests to attend the 29th annual IQLA in December 2022. More details will be shared next year. For more information about the International Quality of Life Awards, visit iqla.auburn.edu.