NYU Professors David Levering Lewis and Philippe de Montebello, and Annette Gordon-Reed, a visiting professor at the School of Law, are among the eight recipients of the 2009 National Humanities Medal. President Barack Obama presented the medals at a Feb. 25 ceremony in the White House’s East Room.
The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.
Levering Lewis, the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History, won Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of his biography of W.E.B. DuBois (W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 and W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963). He most recently authored God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215, which recounts the impact of Islam on Europe and illustrates the movement and changes of Islam throughout time. His other works include Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfus Affair and King: A Biography. An inaugural recipient of the John Hope Franklin Distinguished Contributor to Higher Education award, Levering Lewis is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has received honorary doctorates from Emory University and the University of Pittsburgh, among other institutions. Levering Lewis has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University.
Levering Lewis was recognized “for his insightful examinations of W.E.B. DuBois, the Dreyfus Affair, and early Islamic-Christian relations in Europe, which have enriched our understanding of the figures and forces that shaped world history.”
De Montebello, Fiske Kimball Professor in the History and Culture of Museums at the Institute of Fine and special advisor to the provost at NYU Abu Dhabi, was director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1977 to 2008. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2002, which makes him only the fourth individual to have won both the arts and humanities medals. His other honors and awards, include: honorary doctorates from NYU, Harvard, Dartmouth; the National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal; being named as a commendatore in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy; being named an Officier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur; the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, from the Government of Japan; and the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal Award; among many others. De Montebello received his BA in the history of art magna cum laude from Harvard College. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and earned his MA at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.
De Montebello was recognized “for his vision in bringing great art to an international public and his leadership in revitalizing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and for fostering arts appreciation among people of all ages.”
Gordon-Reed was recognized for "important and innovative research about an American family, the Hemings of Monticello," said Obama. "Her narrative story about Sally Hemings and her relatives, Thomas Jefferson’s slaves, brings to light a previously unrecognized chapter in the American story."
Other recipients of the National Humanities Medal included biographer Robert Caro and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.