Eurasia Foundation honored Drew Guff with the 2015 Sarah Carey Award on October 14 for bringing Americans and the people of the Eurasia region closer together through business, culture and non-profit leadership. Mr. Guff is a managing director and founding partner of the asset management firm Siguler Guff & Company, where he oversees the direct investment activities of Russia Partners, an affiliate of Siguler Guff that manages more than $1 billion of private equity investments in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. He is also the founding donor of the Solzhenitsyn Initiative, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute to translate major works by Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for the first time into English.

“Sarah Carey was a person who saw the world as incomplete, as needing improvement, and rather than complaining, she rolled up her sleeves and did something,” Eurasia Foundation President Horton Beebe-Center said. “Drew Guff is cut from the same cloth as Sarah and richly deserves this award.”

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Guff warned that the lack of official engagement between the U.S. and Russia over the last 18 months has been dangerous as well as unprecedented in the post-Cold War period, and he stressed the importance of  finding instances where mutual interests intersect.

“Eurasia Foundation’s supporters represent some of the leading participants in the well-being of the U.S.-Russia relationship,” Mr. Guff said. “All are people of goodwill and have a stake in a healthy bilateral relationship. To not keep these channels open would be a terrible mistake.”

The award presentation and gala dinner took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC. Featured guest and president of the Council on Foreign Relations Dr. Richard Haass delivered a wide-ranging foreign policy speech, touching on the crisis in Eastern Ukraine and the Russian military campaign in Syria.

 “While government-to-government relations between the U.S. and Russia will remain uneven or difficult, this creates a space that NGOs and committed individuals can operate in,” Dr. Haass said. “They can’t be a substitute, but they can play a useful and constructive role. I’m known as a card-carrying foreign policy realist, but I’m also a believer in the importance and power of civil society. Democracy never just happens, nor can it be installed. But outsiders can make a difference.”

Dr. Haass was followed on stage by Maryna Kavaleuskaya, a Harvard-trained lawyer from Belarus and member of EF’s Young Professional’s Network (YPN). Ms. Kavaleuskaya—whose current practice focuses on anti-corruption, human rights, and rule of law in emerging markets—began her speech by recognizing Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian writer who recently won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. 

“For many Belarusians, this acknowledgement of Svetlana’s talent is a rare opportunity to receive much-needed recognition that our nation, as well as other nations in our region, are not only a source of concern, but also of talent and great potential,” Ms. Kavaleuskaya said.  “At a time of regional turmoil, when our countries once again have to defend their independence and national identities, such perspective and recognition is of great importance.”

She also acknowledged the other participants of the YPN program in attendance, and remarked that the program is an ideal platform for cultivating long-term relationships.

“The personal and professional bonds we form are beyond politics, religion, and ethnicity, and involve our commitment to mutual respect, excellence, and cooperation,” Ms. Kavaleuskaya said. “Let us preserve the highest professional integrity in our work to help Eurasian countries move towards a sustainable and prosperous future.”

The Sarah Carey program is funded entirely by private donors. Eurasia Foundation would like to thank the 2015 benefactor donors, BNY Mellon, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Siguler Guff, for their generous support of the Carey program.