Kay Coles James

National Humanities Medal



For her intellectual leadership, devotion to our Constitutional principles, and steadfast commitment to opportunity for all.

Kay Coles James is President of the Heritage Foundation, a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C. Her career in public policy began on the school board of Fairfax County, Virginia, and continued to the state board of education. Under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, James was appointed to the National Commission on Children. She served as associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the George H.W. Bush administration. Under President George W. Bush, she served as the director of the Office of Personnel Management. James has also worked at senior levels in education and the nonprofit world, as the chief operating officer of a national organization for mentoring programs and the dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. She is the founder of the Gloucester Institute, which offers leadership training to African-American college students. James’s autobiography Never Forget describes her personal journey “from public housing to the corridors of power.”

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.