Recipients honored for outstanding cultural contributions--Foundation for World War II operatives who rescued 5 million pieces of Nazi-stolen art, a pioneer in the digital humanities, and an American professor of Yiddish Literature among this year’s winners.
Today, President George W. Bush awarded the prestigious National Humanities Medals for 2007 during a ceremony held in the White House East Room. Nine distinguished Americans and one cultural foundation were honored for their exemplary contributions to the humanities. In recognition of their scholarship, preservation efforts, philanthropy, and literary works, the President presented National Humanities Medals to Stephen H. Balch, scholar and advocate; Russell Freedman, author; Victor Davis Hanson, military historian and author; Roger Hertog, philanthropist; Cynthia Ozick, author; Richard Pipes, author and historian; Pauline L. Schultz, curator and author; Henry Leonard Snyder, scholar and innovator; Ruth R. Wisse, scholar and author; and the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. Immediately following the ceremony, the medalists, their families, and friends joined the President and First Lady Laura Bush for a reception held in their honor.
A Cold War historian, a leading advocate of higher-education reform, and several award-winning authors are among this year’s recipients. From one woman’s private news collection of local Wyoming history to an international organization’s recovery of over five million masterworks of art stolen by the Nazis in World War II, the work of these medalists is varied in its scope.
The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.
The Humanities Medal is the signal award for the humanities. Over the last decade, including this year’s recipients, the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to only 98 individuals and 7 organizations. Among those recognized during this time period are Bernard Lewis, Judith “Miss Manners” Martin; Madeleine L’Engle, Harvey Mansfield, and John Updike.
Medal recipients do not compete for this award but are specially selected by the President for their lifelong achievements in each of their diverse areas of expertise. Citations for the nine individuals and one organization receiving the National Humanities Medal for 2007 can be found below. A detailed profile of each of the medalists is available online.
Dr. Stephen Balch, scholar and advocate, is being recognized “for leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions in higher education. His work on behalf of reasoned scholarship in a free society has made him a leading champion of excellence and reform at our nation's universities.”
Russell Freedman, author, is being recognized “for recounting the history of our nation’s struggle for liberty. With great insight and creativity, he has awakened young readers to our nation’s ongoing quest for justice for all.”
Victor Davis Hanson, military historian and author, is being recognized “for scholarship on our civilization’s past and present. He has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times.”
Roger Hertog, philanthropist, is being recognized “for enlightened philanthropy on behalf of the humanities. His wisdom and generosity have rejuvenated institutions that are keepers of American memory.”
Cynthia Ozick, author, is being recognized “for literary criticism which has traced the shifting currents of American arts and letters. In her criticism and essays, she has been a lifelong advocate and practitioner of moral clarity and literary excellence.”
Richard Pipes, author and historian, is being recognized “for peerless scholarship on Russia and Eastern Europe and for a life in service to freedom’s cause. He has shaped and sharpened our understanding of the eternal contest of liberty and tyranny.”
Pauline L. Schultz, curator and author, is being recognized “for stewardship of a precious trove of local historical knowledge. She has been a collector and curator of facts and artifacts that capture a century of human experience on Wyoming’s high plains.”
Henry Snyder, scholar and innovator, is being recognized “for visionary leadership in bridging the worlds of scholarship and technology. His direction of massive projects in the digital humanities has opened new frontiers in cataloguing and preserving ideas and documents for future generations.”
Ruth Wisse, scholar and author, is being recognized “for scholarship and teaching that have illuminated Jewish literary traditions. Her insightful writings have enriched our understanding of Yiddish literature and Jewish culture in the modern world.”
Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art is being recognized “for sustained efforts to recognize the contributions of the scholar-soldiers of the Second World War. Our civilization is forever indebted to a handful of men and women who, in an era of total war, rescued and preserved a precious portion of the world’s heritage.”