About The Philadelphia Award


History of Founder Edward W. Bok (1863-1930)


Edward William Bok’s life embodied the classic American immigrant story. His legacy as an editor and author, a philanthropist and community leader, continues to serve as a model and beacon for the Philadelphia region and beyond. Born in Den Helder, Netherlands on October 9, 1863, Bok immigrated to the United States with his family when he was seven years old. After completing his education, he began a swift rise through the publishing industry. He landed his first job with Henry Holt and Company, and two years later became associated with Charles Scribner’s Sons, eventually becoming advertising manager. He then was editor of "The Brooklyn Magazine" from 1882 to 1884. In 1886, he founded "The Bok Syndicate Press" which led to the offer of the editorship of "The Ladies’ Home Journal" in 1889.
Under his management, "The Ladies’ Home Journal" became one of the most successful and influential publications in America and the first magazine in the world to have one million subscribers. Bok was a champion of social causes, a pioneer in the field of public sex education, prenatal education and childcare. He was also an environmental activist and even campaigned to save Niagara Falls.
After 30 years at the helm of the Journal, he retired as editor in 1919. A year later he Published "The Americanization of Edward Bok", which won the Gold Medal of the Academy of Political and Social Science and the Pulitzer Prize for best autobiography. Bok then turned his considerable energy and inventiveness to various and far-ranging philanthropic activities, including the erection of the Bok Singing Tower, a carillon in Iron Mountain, Florida, and the endowment of the Woodrow Wilson professorship of literature at Princeton.

Creation of The Philadelphia Award

I n 1921, Bok created The Philadelphia Award - among the most cherished, meaningful and prestigious awards conferred in, by and for the Philadelphia community. The award is given each year to a citizen of the Philadelphia region who, during the preceding year, acted and served on behalf of the best interests of the community.
In establishing the Award, Bok wrote, "service to others tends to make lives happy and communities prosperous." He believed that "the idea of service as a test of good citizenship should be kept constantly before the minds of the people of Philadelphia."
Since its inception, The Philadelphia Award has recognized the achievements of more than 80 individuals. Its recipients have been some of the most distinguished Philadelphians, including industrialists, educators, lawyers, political figures, scientists, physicians, members of the clergy, social activists, philosophers, musicians, artists, architects and writers.
All are bonded by a shared vision: Make the city and the region more prosperous, efficient and beautiful by enriching, educating, inspiring and caring for those who live there. The Philadelphia Award is administered by a Board of Trustees and carries an honorarium of $25,000.