Alliance to Save Energy Honors Founder, Sen. Charles H. Percy, with Lifetime Achievement Award For Decades-Long Championship of Energy Efficiency
Washington, D.C., December 7, 2004 – Longtime Georgetown resident Charles H. Percy, 85, is well known as a very successful corporate CEO, an independent-minded Republican Senator from Illinois, father of WETA President and CEO Sharon Rockefeller, and father-in-law of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.).
Percy is perhaps less widely known – but no less admired – as a long-time advocate of energy efficiency and as the founder in 1977 of the Alliance to Save Energy, a bipartisan coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide. Indeed, Percy is known to consider founding the Alliance as one of his most significant acts of public service.
The Alliance will honor Percy for his devotion to the organization and the cause of energy efficiency by conferring on him its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award on the night of December 9. His son, Mark, will accept the award on his behalf at the Evening with the Stars of Energy Efficiency, the Alliance’s annual black-tie awards and fundraising dinner, at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, D.C.
When the Alliance marked its 25th anniversary a few years ago, Percy reminisced about the organization’s beginnings following the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s: “I was an artillery gunner in World War II when America was under attack, but I never saw the American people as vulnerable as when that [oil] embargo hit.”
In a grand gesture of bipartisan cooperation and concern for the public interest, then-Sen. Percy invited his Democratic colleague from Minnesota, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, to join him in founding the Alliance. His inspiration was the 1973 OPEC oil embargo that had thrown the U.S. economy into turmoil and introduced “gas line” into the American vocabulary. He saw the organization as a way to protect America from having to endure that sort of chaos ever again. Humphrey immediately agreed to join the endeavor, commenting that founding the Alliance could be “the single most important thing we do in our lifetime.”
From the Alliance’s inception, Percy tirelessly served the organization and its mission, first as chair of the board of directors from 1977 through 1982, then as co-chair through 1989, and later by continuing to participate actively in Alliance activities and taking a keen interest in Alliance affairs.
“I am thrilled to be honoring our founder, Sen. Chuck Percy, with our first Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his long-term commitment to and advocacy of energy efficiency,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “Nearly 30 years ago, Sen. Percy had the vision to recognize that energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest, cleanest way to meet America’s growing energy demand.”
The Alliance’s founding on a bipartisan basis reflects the tenor of Percy’s political career. As one of Congress’s moderate Republicans during a less polarized era, he drew admiration from both sides of the aisle during his three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1967-1985.
Prior to entering politics, Percy was “the boy wonder of the corporate world,” in the words of Illinois political writer Robert Howard, as the youngest person to head a Fortune 500 company. At the same time, he was a true gentleman of the old school who displayed a genuine concern for the average citizen, according to Alliance Executive Vice President Mark Hopkins, a 20-year Alliance veteran himself.
Hopkins noted, “I never heard an unkind word or thought from him. He had a huge concern for the welfare of people and for seeking ways to make their lives better. In all my dealings with him, I never met a kinder or more thoughtful person, or one more devoted to his family.”