Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, recognizes exceptional meritorious service. The medal was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in the war. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service in peacetime.
Janet Davison Rowley (1925–2013)
BS’46, MD’48; Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2009
Janet Rowley’s work … changed the way cancer was understood, opened the door to development of drugs directed at the cancer-specific genetic abnormalities, and created the paradigm that still drives cancer research.
Gary S. Becker (1930–2014)
AM’53, PhD’55; University Professor in Economics and Sociology, 1970–present
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2007
For pioneering applications of economic theory of human capital to show ways in which individual and family decisions are made on the basis of economics.
James Q. Wilson (1931–2012)
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2003
Wilson’s principal effect is through his writing, some of it amplified by his relationships with civic leaders. Police Chief William J. Bratton is a disciple of Wilson’s policing strategies. And former Mayor Richard Riordan calls Wilson the most intellectually honest person he knows—someone interested in exploring questions, not dictating answers.
Katharine Graham (1917–2001)
AB’38; former publisher and CEO of the Washington Post ; former member of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2002
After nearly 35 years of leading The Washington Post Company—as publisher, chief executive officer, and chairman of the executive committee—Mrs. Graham wrote her memoirs, Personal History, in 1997. The best-selling chronicle of her life with The Post won the Pulitzer Prize for biography.
John Hope Franklin (1915–2009)
John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in History, 1969–1982
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1995
My challenge,” Franklin said, “was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly.
Hanna Holborn Gray
Assistant Professor in History, 1961–64; Associate Professor of History, 1964–72; President of the University of Chicago, 1978–93; Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor of History, 1994–present
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1991
In the highest ranks of academic leadership, she has strengthened Yale University and the University of Chicago and ensured that they remain among the world’s great teaching and research universities. The United States honors Hanna Gray for devoting her abundant talent and energy to the causes of excellence, truth, and freedom.
Friedrich August von Hayek (1899–1992)
Professor of Social and Moral Science in the Committee on Social Thought, 1950–64
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1991
The Road to Serfdom still thrills readers everywhere, and his subsequent works inspire people throughout the world because they possess the vigor and feel of real life—not just the hollow ring of abstract theory. Professor von Hayek has revolutionized the world’s intellectual and political life.
Milton Friedman (1912–2006)
AM'33; Research Assistant in the Social Science Research Committee, 1934–35; Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, 1946–48; Professor, 1948–62; Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor, 1962–82; Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, 1982–2006
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1988
He has used a brilliant mind to advance a moral vision: the vision of a society where men and women are free, free to choose, but where government is not as free to override their decisions. That vision has changed America, and it is changing the world. All of us owe a tremendous debt to this man’s towering intellect and his devotion to liberty.
Albert Wohlstetter (1913–1997)
University Professor in Political Science, 1964–80
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1985
Wohlstetter was at the origin of the rethinking of the traditional doctrine known as ‘mutual assured destruction’ (MAD), which was the basis for nuclear deterrence. According to this theory, two blocs capable of inflicting upon each other irreparable damages would cause leaders to hesitate to unleash the nuclear fire. For Wohlstetter and his pupils, MAD was both immoral— because of the destruction inflicted on civilian populations—and ineffective: it led to the mutual neutralization of nuclear arsenals. No statesman endowed with reason, and in any case no American president, would decide on ‘reciprocal suicide.'
James D. Watson
PhB’46, SB’47, DSc (honorary)'61
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1977
Scholar, teacher, author, and scientific pioneer, James D. Watson has challenged the mysteries of life itself and charted a new path in mankind’s endless search for truth. His intellectual courage and relentless pursuit of scientific knowledge have earned him the respect and admiration of his country and a permanent place as one of the great explorers of the 20th century.
Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1963
Artist of rare gaiety and penetration, he has inscribed a noble vision in his books, making the commonplaces of life yield the wit, the wonder and the steadfastness of the human adventure.