Paul Mellon

National Humanities Medal


Over his extraordinarily long and generous life--Paul Mellon turned ninety this year--he has given vast amounts of his family fortune to help culture flourish in the United States through supporting great museums and libraries and supplying them with important works of art, history, and literature.

In 1941, Mellon and his sister, Ailsa, established the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, named for their father, the famed financier who served as secretary of the treasury from 1921 to 1932 and as ambassador to England from 1932 to 1933. The Mellon Foundation has since become the nation's largest nonfederal funder of the humanities and a major contributor to higher education programs, giving $45 million in these areas last year alone.

Mellon is probably most closely associated with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which his father founded in 1937. Besides donating important works of art to our national museum, he was a key figure in the construction of the East Wing, designed by architect I. M. Pei. Mellon has also been instrumental in the building of other major art centers across the country, including the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, the West Wing of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, and the Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. He has a keen interest in libraries as well, among them the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, and has stocked many of them with important works of literature and philosophy.

By Maggie Riechers

About the National Humanities Medal

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects. Up to 12 medals can be awarded each year.