Elshtain passing

image of Jean Bethke Elshtain
(August 13, 2013)

NEH mourns the death on August 12th of former National Humanities Council member Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics with joint appointments at the Divinity School, the Department of Political Science, and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago.   Dr. Elshtain, 72, was a prolific scholar of formidable intellect, the author or editor of twenty-two books, and one of the nation’s leading writers on philosophy, theology and ethics. 

Dr. Elshtain “served with great distinction under two presidents” on the National Humanities Council, the NEH’s national advisory board, from 2006 to 2013, said Acting NEH Chairman Carole Watson.  “She was widely admired, not only for her outstanding scholarship, but also for her vibrant personality."

“Her penetrating analysis of thousands of grant applications over her seven years of service on the council set a standard for careful government stewardship,” Watson said.  “Her deep knowledge and cogent argumentation were greatly valued and exceedingly persuasive.”

Wilfred M. McClay, a fellow former member of the National Humanities Council and professor of history and the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, called Dr. Elshtain “exceptional in every way, not only as a courageous and independent and wise thinker, but as a person of sterling character and irresistible warmth, and seemingly inexhaustible generosity.”

Jay Winik, a leading public historian, award-winning author and fellow council member, described Dr. Elstain’s death as “sad, tragic news.  She was indeed a formidable scholar who brought great credit to the profession and in the best sense of the word embodied the life of the mind.”   

To read more: 


University of Chicago

Chicago Tribune

The Atlantic



Chronicle of Higher Ed

Huffington Post


Religion News Service

Christianity Today

National Catholic Reporter

Christian Post

Vancouver Sun