Edwin J. Feulner, who has led The Heritage Foundation to its current international prominence among think tanks, is among four winners of the 2012 Bradley Prize for outstanding achievement, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation announced today.

“Ed Feulner has elevated the influence of conservative research institutions,” Michael W. Grebe, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation’s president and chief executive officer, said in the announcement. “Under his guidance, The Heritage Foundation has become a bastion of ideas that are an integral part of the national conversation and have shaped public policy.”

In 1973, Feulner co-founded Heritage as a rapid-response policy research institute, hoping to fill a need on Capitol Hill for reliable information and analysis to advance conservative ideas – a shortcoming he’d identified as a congressional aide. He has nurtured the think tank’s growth in expertise, influence and rapidity of response since 1977, when he became Heritage’s president.

Feulner and three other 2012 Bradley Prize recipients, to be named later, will be honored June 7 during a ceremony in Washington at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Each award carries a stipend of $250,000.

“The Bradley brothers believed that the good society is a free society,” Feulner said. “Learning of this honor from those who carry on the Bradley legacy really put me on cloud nine.”

And that’s saying something from a man whose awards include the Presidential Citizens Medal, presented to Feulner in 1989 by President Reagan.

The Bradley Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and values that sustain it. It is widely known for its support of scholarly studies and academic achievement.

The Bradley Prizes formally recognize individuals of “extraordinary talent and dedication who have made contributions of excellence” consistent with the mission of the Bradley Foundation. Up to four prizes are awarded annually to “innovative thinkers and practitioners whose achievements strengthen the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the ideas to which they were committed.”

A nine-member selection committee considered nominations from more than 200 prominent Americans before choosing Feulner and three other winners. Among those on the panel: previous prize recipients Robert P. George, Alan Charles Kors, Charles Krauthammer, Shelby Steele and George F. Will.