This is The Inquirer's ninth Citizen of the Year Award, which seeks to honor those who uphold the ideals of citizenship, promote justice, strengthen democracy, and foster community. The Editorial Board considers nominees from business, science and medicine, education, government, arts and culture, civic activism, sports, and entertainment.

In 2011, the award went to Sister Mary Scullion for her many successful efforts to improve the lives of the destitute men, women, and children who wander and sleep on the streets. In 2010, Helene Pierson of the Heart of Camden was honored for her work to improve the South Camden waterfront. In 2009, the winners were attorneys Marsha Levick and Lourdes Rosado of the Juvenile Law Center, who exposed juvenile-court abuses in Luzerne County. In 2008, activist Harry S. Pozycki was honored for his advocacy of good government in New Jersey. In 2007, Helen Gym of the public-schools advocacy group Parents United. Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. won in 2006 for his work with the children of incarcerated parents. In 2005, Russell Diamond, Timothy Potts, and Eugene Stilp won for leading the pay-raise revolt in Harrisburg. The first recipient was former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean for his stewardship of the 9/11 Commission.