‘Endurance:’ Carnegie Hero Fund officers look back at 2021

Mark Laskow
Hero Fund Chair Mark Lascow


“If there were a movie about the Hero Fund in 2020, I’d name it Resilience. If there were a sequel about 2021, I’d call it Endurance.” stated Mark Laskow, Hero Fund chair, at the top of his annual report on the Fund’s previous year.

“Despite the ongoing drag of COVID, things still got done at the Carnegie Hero Fund,” he added, citing the 60 Minutes profile of the Hero Fund. “Taken together with the CBS Sunday Morning feature in 2016 and The New York Times article in 2019, this has been an enormous boost to the Hero Fund’s public profile, which in turn helps advance our mission — both in the increased flow of nominations and, perhaps more important, the increase in the cooperation of public and private individuals on which our case investigations are so dependent.”

Laskow also mentioned two-time Carnegie Medal recipient Michael Robert Keyser, who posthumously received his second Carnegie Medal in 2021. In 1990, Keyser, then 19, stopped at the scene of an accident that left live power lines hanging near the car. Despite two people nearby being shocked by the lines, he reached through the opened driver’s door and removed the driver. In 2020, Keyser again stopped at the scene of an accident and was attempting to free the driver of an overturned tractor-trailer when another tractor-trailer struck it, killing Keyser and the driver.

“That is why the Hero Fund exists, so that Michael Keyser and his sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Laskow said.

Sybil Veeder
Executive Committee Chair Sybil Veeder


In her annual report, Executive Committee Chair Sybil Veeder also mentioned Keyser, who is the sixth two-time awardee of the Carnegie Medal.

Additionally, Veeder mentioned that the Commission “took a definitive step in furtherance of the founder’s guidance in regard to the heroism of ‘doctors and nurses’ in times of pandemics” and made a $100,000 donation to the Brave of Heart Fund, which provided money to dependents of health care frontline workers who died as a result of treating COVID-19 patients.

Although the Commission’s March meeting was held remotely, in-person meetings resumed in June.


In 2021, 71 people received the Carnegie Medal for a total of 59 acts. After 1905, the number of yearly awards has ranged from 40 in 1945 to 174 in 1966, resulting in an average of 87 individuals receiving the Carnegie Medal each year.

The most frequently awarded type of act in 2021 was drowning (42%) followed by burning vehicle (23%), burning building (10%), and assault (10%). Historically, assault cases have not been among the top five most frequently occurring acts, though during the last decade, assaults (13%) have been more frequent.

In addition, drownings continue to be the deadliest acts – historically 56% of all posthumous awards are in drowning cases. In 2021, 65% of the 20 posthumous awards were for drowning cases.


Each of 2021’s awardees received a one-time grant of $5,500. Awardees (pre-retirement) are also eligible for scholarship assistance, defined as aid applied toward the academic costs of tuition, books, and fees. In 2021, $208,985 was spent by year’s end.

Regarding the beneficiaries, who are primarily the widows of posthumous awardees, $266,800 was paid in 2021 in monthly installments that averaged $406; the number of beneficiaries increased by three from 2020 to 54 at year end.

In addition, $31,007 was provided to heroes and dependents as one-time grants to cover funeral expenses, medical costs and other needs.

Tom Wentling
Finance Committee Chair Tom Wentling


The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s investment portfolio stood at a record $61.25 million at the end of 2021, enjoying a gain in market value of 4.7%, net of spending, over the previous year.

The portfolio is managed by The Investment Fund for Foundations through its TIFF Centerstone Fund and the less-liquid TIFF Keystone Fund.

Dan Sandman
Hero Fund Treasurer Dan Sandman

Hero Fund spending in 2021 totaled $2.248 million, which was below both the year’s budget of $2.328 million and the self-imposed 5% spending cap of $2.419 million. The spending cap was adjusted by the Committee to 5%, effective for 2021. By broad category, $1.194 million was spent on administrative costs during 2021 and $1.054 million on awarding expenses (grants, medals, certificates).

And the Hero Fund endures: continuing its work of finding the heroes of our generation.