President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 announced the nine winners of the 2011 National Humanities Medals, awarded for outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, philosophy, and musicology. Two from Harvard were among those recognized: economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, Thomas W. Lamont University Professor; and historian Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University librarian. The medals will be presented at a White House ceremony today. Harvard Overseer Emily Rauh Pulitzer, founder and chair of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, was also honored as a recipient of the 2011 National Medal of Arts.
In the official release, Darnton was honored “for his determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone. As an author he has illuminated the world of Enlightenment and Revolutionary France, and as a librarian he has endeavored to make his vision for a comprehensive national library of digitized books a reality.” Sen was recognized “for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice. By applying philosophical thinking to questions of policy, he has changed how standards of living are measured and increased our understanding of how to fight hunger.”
Honored for her contributions as a curator, art collector, and philanthropist, Pulitzer was also lauded for dedicating “herself to connecting art and viewers through her generosity in caring for well-established institutions like the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the Harvard Art Museums, and The Museum of Modern Art; as well as having the vision to create a new destination in St. Louis with the founding of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.”
The National Humanities Medal 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 National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government. The medal is awarded to individuals or groups who “are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”
Harvard alumni John Ashbery and Andrew Delbanco, and two former professors, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Charles Rosen, were honored as well.
Read the full release.