FIRE’s cofounder and chairman, Alan Charles Kors, was awarded a National Humanities Medal today for his extraordinary contributions to the field of humanities and to the understanding of liberty on campus. At a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush presented the award to Kors as well as to ten other distinguished individuals and one scholarly project.
Kors specializes in European intellectual history in his teaching and research at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a professor of history and holds the George H. Walker Endowed Term Chair. He is a prolific writer about the conceptual revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries and served as editor-in-chief of the four-volume Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment (2002).
His colleagues at Penn have elected him four times to the University and School Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility and he has won several awards in recognition of his stalwart defense of academic freedom. Kors’ successful defense of student Eden Jacobowitz in the infamous “water buffalo case” at Penn in 1993 led to the writing of The Shadow University (1998) and to the founding of FIRE, both with Harvey Silverglate.
The other recipients of the National Humanities Medal are Walter Berns, Matthew Bogdanos, Eva Brann, John Lewis Gaddis, Richard Gilder, Mary Ann Glendon, Leigh Keno, Leslie Keno, Lewis Lehrman, Judith Martin, and the Papers of George Washington Project at the University of Virginia.
As the National Endowment for the Humanities explains, “The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand America’s access to important humanities resources.”