In recognition of four decades of commitment to advancing the conservative movement – including 30 years and counting of service to this think tank, Heritage Foundation Vice President and Senior Counselor John Von Kannon received the John Ashbrook Award during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The honor, presented to Von Kannon by Marvin J. Krinsky, chairman of the Ashbrook Center, is bestowed annually on an individual who upholds the ideals of limited constitutional government championed by John M. Ashbrook, the late Ohio congressman and co-founder of the American Conservative Union.

Previous recipients since 1983 have included: President Ronald Reagan; former attorney general and current Heritage distinguished Ronald Reagan fellow, Ed Meese; former Vice President Dan Quayle; current House Speaker John Boehner; and Heritage distinguished fellow in conservative thought, Lee Edwards.

Von Kannon was chosen not only for his pioneering work in relationship-based outreach by a think tank, but his highly effective role in the building of the conservative movement as a whole. Serving the think tank in a variety of positions, including the top development job, he helped to grow its budget from $4 million in 1982 to more than $80 million this year. Membership surged as well. Today, Heritage boasts nearly 700,000 active members, making it the most broadly supported think tank in the world.

“Matchmaker” was a better description of his job than “fundraiser,” Von Kannon once noted, because he focuses on connecting concerned Americans with Heritage’s conservative ideas and values. He has made connections since at least 1964, when he was a 15-year-old volunteer for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.

At Thursday night’s award ceremony during the President’s Banquet at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, Von Kannon recalled for the crowd:

I was a college student in 1972 when Representative Ashbrook took on the principled and courageous task of running against President Nixon in the primaries. A group of us in Bloomington, Indiana, volunteered to collect signatures to get him on the ballot. Since conservatives were scarce on the Indiana University campus, we just set up shop in the student union and asked every student with long hair or a peace symbol if they wanted to sign a petition against Nixon. No one bothered to actually read the petition, so we were able to turn to the Left to help with the campaign of No Left Turns.

Von Kannon then noted modestly: “I’ve learned additional lessons for success, thanks mainly to insights I gained from others.” He quoted from the 2007 book Forces for Good:

“What sets The Heritage Foundation apart from other conservative organizations, and most think tanks in general, is its remarkable dedication to building, cultivating and coordinating a network of allies. This network in turn serves as an important hub for the larger conservative movement. Heritage does not see other conservative groups as competition. Instead, it helps them raise funds, build their skills, and develop leadership to increase their impact.”

Von Kannon added: “Now I believe that the authors of Forces for Good identified a key reason for Heritage’s success, even while underestimating the spirit of cooperation within the entire conservative movement. One reason so many of you participate in CPAC, after all, is to meet and collaborate with other conservatives around the country.”

We congratulate our colleague and collaborator, John Von Kannon, for this well-deserved recognition of his work to increase the reach and expertise of The Heritage Foundation — and of his dedication to the larger conservative cause. (To find about more about Von Kannon, click here.)