Aaron, Bailyn, Brustein, Hall, Katz, Rampersad, Wood Receive Arts, Humanities Honors

President Barack Obama to confer medals today.

The White House yesterday announced the names of 19 Americans to be honored with the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. The medals—the highest government honors for scholars, writers, artist, and entertainers—are to be presented in a White House ceremony today. Humanities medalists are profiled here. Arts medalists are profiled here. Among the Harvard-affiliated honorands are:


Daniel Aaron, Ph.D. ’43, Litt.D. ’07, Thomas professor of English and American literature emeritus, a founder and initial president of the Library of America (Humanities). See “The Great Good Place,” from the September-October 2001 Harvard Magazine, for his memoir of his graduate studies at the University, and the July-August 2007 Commencement coverage for the conferral of his honorary degree; the citation read, “A man of good hope who speaks to the conscience; an exemplary Americanist whose unassuming erudition joins literature and history in a more perfect union.”


Bernard Bailyn, Ph.D. ’53, LL.D. ’99, Adams University Professor emeritus, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (which also won the Bancroft Prize); the National Book Award-winning The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson; and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Voyagers to the West (Humanities). His honorary-degree citation read, “Brilliant expositor of a budding nation's beginnings, exemplar of the historian's craft, he reveals the sparks that kindled America's sacred fire of liberty.” For Bailyn’s reflections on Harvard presidential transitions, see “Fixing the Turnips,” from our archives.   


Robert Brustein, senior research fellow at Harvard, critic, producer, playwright, and founder of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theater (Arts).


Donald Hall ’51, JF ’57, poet and former Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007), author of The One Day, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award (Arts). He served as poetry editor for this magazine for many years. For his views on America’s national pastime, read “Diamond Poetics,” from our archives.


Stanley Nider Katz ’55, Ph.D. ’61, one of Bailyn’s students, a legal historian, past president of the American Council of Learned Societies, director of Princeton University’s Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, and a leading advocate for improved undergraduate education (Humanities).


Arnold Rampersad, Ph.D. ’73, whose dissertation grew into an acclaimed biography, The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois; he subsequently wrote the definitive biography of Langston Hughes and has written lives of Ralph Ellison, Arthur Ashe, and Jackie Robinson (Humanities).


Gordon S. Wood, Ph.D. ’64, another Bailyn student, now Way University Professor and professor of history emeritus at Brown, frequent reviewer in the New York Review of Books, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the Bancroft Prize-winning The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, and the recent Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, a 2010 Pulitzer finalist (Humanities).


Quincy Jones, awarded an honorary doctorate in music in 1997 (“Musician, humanitarian, orchestrator extraordinaire, he bridges worlds and fuses forms in quest of deeper harmonies”) also received the arts medal, as did 2010 honorand Meryl Streep (“From Sophie to Silkwood, Miss Julie to Julia Child, an actress of luminous intensity and infinite variety whose transcendent performances richly merit this academy’s award.”)

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