Natalie Hahn

Humanities Nebraska announced that international United Nations Official and Malaika Foundation founder Natalie Hahn was selected by Humanities Nebraska (HN) to receive the 2020 Sower Award in the Humanities. The Sower Award is presented annually to an individual who has made “a significant contribution to public understanding of the humanities in Nebraska.” 

A native of Polk, long-time resident of Central City, former New Yorker, and now Lincoln resident, Natalie Hahn served 38 years with United Nations programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, New York City, and Rome. Global interest and adventures started when she was a Polk County 4-H member, participating in the International Farm Youth Exchange in New Zealand and then receiving a Rotary Fellowship to India.  

Her work with the U.N. included areas such as new food crops and nutrition in Nigeria, women and finance with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, youth  initiatives with the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF Representative to  Malawi, and Senior Private Sector Advisor at the U.N.’s Fund for International Partnerships. Her favorite job was in Nigeria with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-Ibadan) where she assisted in introducing improved food crops and nutrition programs for rural women. An agricultural revolution was the adoption of soybeans, a new crop of the country.  For this accomplishment, the Yoruba Peoples honored her with a chieftaincy and bestowed the title Balogun Iyalaje, meaning “the person who empowers.”

Dr. Hahn sees her recent return home to her beloved Nebraska as “her best decision ever.”  With the influence of her journalist Mother, Grayce Hahn Burney, she was determined to give back to her state by founding the Malaika Foundation, a recipient of HN grants, which has a mission to build a greater understanding of peoples and countries throughout the world and enhance global education in Nebraska schools and communities. Over the past 20 years, the Malaika Foundation has organized educational workshops throughout Nebraska for 3,000 teachers and provided 68 fellowships to teachers and students to study abroad on five continents. 

Dr. Hahn has donated African art to Metropolitan Community College in Omaha; the Kenneth Morrison Cancer Center in Hastings; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln; Wayne State College, and the public schools and libraries in Lexington. Upon moving to Lincoln, she became a member of Downtown Lincoln Rotary Club #14.

With an educational background that includes a B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an M.A. from The Ohio State University, and an M.P.A. and Ed.D from Harvard University, Dr. Hahn has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Dr. Hahn was nominated by HN board member Edgar Hicks of Omaha, who noted in his nomination letter that she is unique in making her contribution to public understanding of the humanities through all four categories cited in the nomination form: scholarship, volunteerism, philanthropy, and advocacy. 

The 2020 Sower Award will be presented to Natalie Hahn immediately prior to the 25th annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities at 7:30 p.m. on September 22 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln. The free public lecture will be given by presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Titled “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” the Governor’s Lecture is also part of the 2020-21 E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues lecture series, and will also be available for live-only viewing through a secure online portal (registration required)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Humanities Nebraska’s benefit dinner prior to the lecture has been cancelled. If Doris Kearns Goodwin is unable to present the lecture in person due to the pandemic, the event will be presented in its entirety online.  Please visit this page to stay up to date on details on the Governor’s Lecture, sponsorship information, and the Sower Award presentation. To attend the Governor’s Lecture in person, a limited number of free tickets can be reserved through the Lied Center.  

Watch Dr. Hahn's acceptance speech now: