Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary




Our mission is to recognise, reward and nurture great leaders currently in play, who will provide answers to such challenges as climate change, poverty, disease, peace and justice.


In an age when great leadership is more vital than ever, there exists little direct international recognition of mid-career leadership. Inspired by the late Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand’s most celebrated public figure, the Hillary Institute of International Leadership takes on this challenge,  searching the globe for exceptional mid-career leaders, and providing them with prestigious recognition and ongoing celebration of their work. 

Edmund Hillary crossing a ladder bridge over a crevasse above Camp III in the Western Cwm during the reconnaissance.  April 25th 1953. Photograph   courtesy of  The Royal Geographic Society (with IBG) .

Edmund Hillary crossing a ladder bridge over a crevasse above Camp III in the Western Cwm during the reconnaissance. April 25th 1953. Photograph courtesy of The Royal Geographic Society (with IBG).


About The Institute



The Institute was launched by Sir Edmund from Antarctica on 22 January 2007 in the company of our patron, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, and principal philanthropic investor Jan Cameron.

Founded as a NZ registered charity to honour Sir Ed’s extraordinary legacy of leadership, the Institute's work is globally focused, selecting one Laureate annually, a leading social entrepreneur who also embodies the humanitarian commitment of Sir Ed. An additional premiere award of the Hillary Step (valued currently at NZ$100,000) was first given in 2012 after our first four years of work.

The Institute has celebrated nine Hillary Laureates in the past decade, three of whom have also been awarded Hillary Step awards. While coming from across the globe, (India, US, UK, China, South America, Sweden and Kiribati), our Laureates are united by exceptional mid-career, leadership, impact at scale, and a deep sense of purpose driving their work. See our Laureate page for the extraordinary characters who we have supported and celebrated.

“It’s a New Zealand equivalent to the Nobel Prize for leadership”
— Helen Clark, Former Administrator UNDP (2009-17), Prime Minister of NZ (1999-2008)

About Sir Edmund

Sir Edmund Hillary personifies essential human qualities of integrity, modesty, determination and service to others, born of a lifetime of exceptional achievement.

Sir Edmund Hillary was raised in a quiet country town at the bottom of the world in New Zealand. This unremarkable schoolboy discovered early a love of mountaineering, which ultimately led to his becoming an international legend, as the first man to climb Mt. Everest in May 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, Sherpa.

For the last 50 years he has not only continued to lead expeditions to the most remote corners of the earth, but perhaps most tellingly, devoted himself to environmental and humanitarian efforts that have made a profound difference to the Sherpa communities where his famous summiting was achieved.

In 2003 Sir Edmund and Lady June Hillary celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the ascent of Everest in Nepal, with Sherpa friends and Tenzing family, and in 2004 he formally re-embraced leadership development, both in New Zealand as the patron of the Excelerator: New Zealand Leadership Institute, and internationally by lending his name to the development of the Hillary Institute and its associated Awards programme.

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, Sir Edmund was the recipient of numerous international citations including The Order of New Zealand, the country’s highest honour. He has also been awarded nine honorary doctorates and is the author of eight books. In January 2007 Sir Edmund returned to Antarctica for the final time for the 50 years celebration of his establishment of Scott Base, and to launch the Hillary Institute. 

New Zealanders take great pride in this extraordinary, ordinary man, a worldwide symbol of courage, determination, leadership and humanitarian service. Sir Edmund passed peacefully in Auckland, on the morning of Jan 11, 2008, and was accorded the rare honour of a state funeral on Jan 22nd.

2019 is Sir Ed’s centenary year. A number of celebrations are taking place to honour his legacy. He will forever be an inspiration to us all.

Read Sir Edmund's Full Bio


New Zealand: Base Camp for Great Leadership

Beyond the global Laureate programme Aotearoa New Zealand is basecamp for an additional Fellowship programme, widely-respected as a place where innovative science, agriculture and creative industries flourish.

From world-class sailing and boat building to film-making, biochemistry and DNA research, this land of the Kiwi influences well beyond its weight in the modern world. New Zealand is recognised internationally for independence and integrity, and is nimble enough in an apolitical manner, to initiate innovative ideas.

The Hillary Institute partnered with KiwiConnect in late 2016 to develop the Edmund Hillary Fellowship: A Fellowship programme and global community that gives impact-driven entrepreneurs, investors and startup teams a platform to build and incubate global impact ventures from New Zealand. 80% of the Fellows are selected from countries around the world, while 20% are Kiwis, resulting in diverse, globally-connected cohorts.

The Fellowship programme (EHF), works directly with Immigration New Zealand to issue 3-year Global Impact Visas for New Zealand for international Fellows. A not-for-profit company, EHF has its own board and staff group, its chairman holding a seat on the HI Board and the Institute's chair with observer status on the EHF Board. While the Laureate and Fellowship programmes both contribute to realising the Institute's mission, EHF's operational management is at arms-length from the Institute.  

Check out our Fellowship page for details.




Our annual award recipients

Our international board

Our NZ-based operational people


Invest In Outstanding Leadership

With the exciting development of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, launched in 2017, the Hillary Institute is in the process of reviewing its financial position and establishing a solid foundation for the future.  

Our initial funding came from the generous support of Jan Cameron who lent the Institute NZ$2.5 million following her sale of the Kathmandu clothing company. The Institute has now established its own capital endowment fund and is actively seeking contributions to both its capital raising programme and its annual operating budget.  We invite you to consider championing and supporting the Hillary Institute and its work.

Learn More About Investing In The Hillary Institute

You can only use so much money yourself, so you’ve then got to decide what to do with it. I’m in a privileged position to be able to do that, and [the institute] is a great idea
— Jan Cameron, Founder of Kathmandu

Contact Us

Hillary Institute of International Leadership
+64 3 371 9162 or +64 2 143 4400
P.O. Box 578, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand

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