LSU’s Manship School Honors Science Education Activist with Courage & Justice Award

04/22/2014 05:22 PM

BATON ROUGE – Zachary Sawyer Kopplin has been named the third recipient of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication’s Courage & Justice Award and the accompanying $1,000 prize.

The 20-year-old Baton Rouge native will receive the honor at an award ceremony Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the school's Holliday Forum. While still a student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Kopplin launched a crusade to halt the teaching of creationism in Louisiana’s public high schools. His social and political activism since has expanded to Texas and to charter schools. He has been recognized nationally for his efforts. Kopplin gathered the signatures of 78 Nobel Laureate scientists and the support of a number of national science organizations in opposing the teaching of creationism at tax-supported schools.

He played a key role in getting the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt new life science textbooks, prompting The Advocate to label the then-senior “the newest giant-killer in state education policy.”

“No matter where you stand on this issue, most would agree it takes an extraordinary amount of courage for someone of his age to mount a campaign that has such a sweeping consequence,” said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School.

The Courage & Justice Award is given to an individual whose efforts in pursuit of a perceived just cause and civic benefit display “courage and ethics in the face of opposition while operating with a lack of resources and under a substantial time commitment, as well as overcoming other challenges.”

The $1,000 purse is underwritten by the Donna and Hans Sternberg Foundation.

Kopplin has been featured in national newspaper stories and has been a guest on a number of television shows.  He currently resides in Houston, where he is a history major at Rice University.

He is the son of Andy and Andrea Kopplin of New Orleans. His father is the deputy mayor and CEO of New Orleans and was chief of staff for former Louisiana Govs. Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco. Nominees for the award are considered annually by a selection committee comprised of Manship School faculty and staff.

In 2011, the inaugural award was given to Stanley Nelson of Ferriday, La. Nelson, editor of the weekly Concordia Parish Sentinel, was honored investigating unsolved Ku Klux Klan murders in the Natchez region during the 1960s.  Buddy “Bob” Johnson, a WBRZ anchor and reporter, was posthumously honored in 2012 for his bravery in covering the Baton Rouge riots in 1972 that left him with severe head injuries and confined him to a nursing home until he died in late 2011. No award was given in 2013.

For more information on the Courage & Justice Award, contact Emily Wascom 225-578-7312 or

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014