Meanwhile, Medaling in Arts and Humanities…

President Obama honors the recipients of the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of the Arts, including six Harvard graduates, honorary-degree holders, and former fellows.

On the same day Harvard alumnae won Olympic gold and silver playing ice hockey in Vancouver, other Harvard affiliates were honored by President Barack Obama at the White House with the National Humanities Medal or the National Medal of the Arts.

Recipients of the 2009 National Humanities Medal, presented for outstanding achievements in history, literature, cultural philanthropy, and museum leadership, included:

  • Robert A. Caro, NF ’66, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and urban planner Robert Moses (The Years of Lyndon Johnson; The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York);
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, J.D. ’84, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Sally Hemings and her family (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family);
  • Philippe de Montebello ’58, Ar.D. ’06, director from 1977 to 2008 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2002, and so becomes only the fourth individual to have received both honors (see “Reverence for the Object,” by Janet Tassel, in this magazine’s September-October 2002 issue); and
  • Theodore C. Sorensen, IOP ’03, the former speechwriter and adviser to President John F. Kennedy ’40, LL.D. ’56, and presidential biographer (Kennedy).

Among the recipients of the 2009 National Medal of the Arts, awarded to those “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States," were two Harvard honorary-degree recipients:

  • Maya Lin, Ds ’83, Ar.D. ’96, best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama; and
  • Jessye Norman, D. Mus. ’88, the internationally celebrated opera singer who has also served as an honorary ambassador for the United Nations. She received the Radcliffe Medal in 1997.

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