National Humanities Medal

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities. The award, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, was established in 1988 as the Charles Frankel Prize. In 1997 it was renamed the National Humanities Medal.

William H. McNeill

AB’38, AM’39; Robert A. Milikan Distinguished Service Professor in History, 1947–87; Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History, 1987–present

National Humanities Medal, 2009
Prominent historian whose The Rise of the West, covering the entire span of recorded human history, had a major effect on historical theory.

William H. McNeill

Milton J. Rosenberg

Professor in Psychology and the College, 1965–96; Professor Emeritus in Psychology, 1996–present

National Humanities Medal, 2008
Combining a scholar’s understanding and a teacher’s openness, he has made a home in radio for elevated conversation and profound thought.

James M. Buchanan Jr.


National Humanities Medal, 2006
He examined how politicians’ self-interest and noneconomic forces affect government economic policy.

James M. Buchanan Jr.

Mary Ann Glendon

AB’59, JD’61; Master of Comparative Law, 1963

National Humanities Medal, 2005
She writes and teaches in the fields of human rights, comparative law, constitutional law, and legal theory.

Walter Berns

PhD, AM; Faculty, 1984, 1989

National Humanities Medal, 2005
He is a political scientist, and a leading authority on the history of the U.S. Constitution.

Gertrude Himmelfarb


National Humanities Medal, 2004
For her critical analysis of history, which has yielded insights into Victorian England and the foundations of our culture.

Gertrude Himmelfarb

Thomas Sowell


National Humanities Medal, 2002
For prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science. He has applied lessons from diverse times and places to the greatest challenges of our day.

Thomas Sowell

Eileen Jackson Southern (1920–2002)

AB’40; AM’41

National Humanities Medal, 2001
Musicologist who helped transform the study and understanding of American music and founding editor of the journal Black Perspectives in Music.

Eileen Jackson Southern

Earl Shorris (1936-2012)


National Humanities Medal, 2000
Social critic and author created the Clemente Course, an education program that brought humanities to poor and unschooled.

Earl Shorris

Philip Roth


National Humanities Medal, 1998
Author of Patrimony, Operation Shylock, Sabbath’s Theater, American Pastoral, and I Married a Communist

Philip Roth

Studs Terkel (1912–2008)

PhB’32, JD’34

National Humanities Medal, 1997
Longtime radio talk-show host, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, oral historian whose published interviews chronicle 20th-century life in the words of hundreds of ordinary Americans.

studs terkel

Martin Marty

PhD’56; Professor in the Divinity School, 1963–78; Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, 1978–98; Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, 1998–present

National Humanities Medal, 1997
Renowned scholar of American religious history and director of the University of Chicago’s Public Religion Project.

martin marty

Luis Leal (1907–2010)

AM’41, PhD’50

National Humanities Medal, 1997
Literary scholar whose life’s work is a major contribution to cultural understanding of Latin America and Hispanic communities in the United States.

luis leal

Richard J. Franke

University Trustee

National Humanities Medal, 1997
Businessman and former investment firm CEO, creator of the annual Chicago Humanities Festival, longtime leader of national and state cultural commissions promoting the arts and humanities.

Allan Bloom (1930–1992)

AB’49, AM’53, PhD’55; Professor in History, 1964–69; Chairman, Department of History, 1967–70; John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor; Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, 1979–92; John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor, 1992

National Humanities Medal, 1992
Philosopher, educator, and author of the best-selling The Closing of the American Mind, an influential critique of American higher education.

allan bloom

Mortimer J. Adler (1902–2001)

Associate Professor in Philosophy of Law, 1930–42; Professor in Philosophy of Law, 1942–52; Visiting Lecturer, 1963–68

National Humanities Medal, 1990
Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in Chicago and author of numerous works on education and philosophy.

mortimer adler

Katherine Dunham (1909–2006)


National Humanities Medal, 1989
Dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist; pioneer in the use of folk and ethnic choreography; one of the founders of the anthropological dance movement.

katherine dunham

Saul Bellow (1915–2005)

X’39; Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and in English, 1962–1993; chairman of the Committee on Social Thought, 1970–76

National Humanities Medal, 1988
Author of The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, and Ravelstein

saul bellow

Ralph Ellison (1913–1994)

Humanities Faculty, 1961

National Humanities Medal, 1985
Author of Invisible Man, Shadow and Act, and Juneteenth.

ralph ellison

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914–2004)

Professor in History, 1944–64; Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor, 1964–69

National Humanities Medal, 1989
Librarian of Congress Emeritus and author of several books on American history and culture for a general audience.

daniel boorstin