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Launch of the Baldrige Program and First Awards Ceremony

First Baldrige Award Ceremony, White House, November 14, 1988 with President Reagan speaking.
First Baldrige Award Ceremony, White House, November 14, 1988
Credit: The White House/Susan Biddle

On March 31, 1988, President Reagan launched the Baldrige Program at a White House Ceremony:

The award . . . offers a vehicle for companies, large and small . . . to examine their own approaches to quality. It offers companies a standard with which to compare their own progress to that of the country’s very best. This award means even more to me because it is a fitting way to honor a good friend. The economic liberty and strong competition that are indispensable to economic progress were principles that Mac Baldrige stressed, both as a successful businessman and a dynamic and effective Secretary of Commerce. The affluence this nation enjoys and the economic success that we’ve achieved derive from a free enterprise system that provides quality products and services. Mac helped strengthen this system. Mac’s work symbolized quality in every respect.

Reimann said the launch was an uplifting meeting, with everyone feeling that they had the administration’s full support. “As civil servants who never even thought about going to meet the Secretary of Commerce,” Reimann said, “this was quite an experience—very intimidating but exciting.” And joining the national effort, ASQC and APQC, which had itself been trying to create a private‐sector‐ managed award, came on board as the original nonprofit contractors mandated in the law. 

Secretary of Commerce Verity echoed the President, “The award—which will be America’s ‘Nobel Prize’ for quality—will promote quality awareness, recognize quality activities of U.S. companies, and help draw the attention of all businesses to successful quality strategies. It also provides opportunities for business to have outside experts evaluate their quality programs.”20

Remarkably, Reimann and his colleagues—and the entire public‐private partnership—met the awards deadline set by Secretary Verity, and the first recipients were announced on November 14, 1988, at a packed ceremony held at the White House.

“We had made the decision to publicize the award and the broader program by promoting the concrete accomplishments of the Baldrige Award recipients,” said Mat Heyman, a long‐time NBS/NIST official charged with directing outreach. “The concept of a government‐managed award to recognize quality achievements in the private sector was likely to be met with natural skepticism, so the accomplishments of the recipients—and more importantly, the lessons contained in their success stories—was our focus.”

20 Verity, William, “Quality—The Quest for Excellence,” Business America: The Magazine of International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce, May 9, 1988


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Created April 17, 2023, Updated April 19, 2023