Deborah Willis, University Professor of Arts and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, was nominated to serve on the National Council on the Humanities by President Barack Obama. A member of the Tisch faculty since 2001, Willis was one of two nominees announced September 18 by the White House.


“Dr. Willis is a prolific, groundbreaking artist, a committed and tireless educator and mentor, and an important chronicler and curator of visual history in this country,” said Allyson Green, Dean of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. “We are fortunate to have her as part of our Tisch community and we’re tremendously proud that she has received this exceptional honor.”

A contemporary artist, photographic historian, author, and educator, Willis has served as a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for 13 years, and has been Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging since 2006. Prior to joining Tisch, she was the Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Willis was the curator of photographs and prints at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library from 1980 to 1992 prior to becoming exhibitions curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for African American History and Culture. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Willis received a B.F.A. from the Philadelphia College of Art, an M.F.A. from the Pratt Institute, an M.A. from City College of New York, and a Ph.D. from George Mason University.

The advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Council on the Humanities is composed of twenty-six distinguished private citizens appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, with each member serving staggered six-year terms.

“These women have demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout their careers,” said President Obama. “I am grateful they have chosen to take on these important roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

About the NYU Tisch School of the Arts
The Tisch School of the Arts is dedicated to supporting, nurturing and molding the individual voice behind each artist and student. The school offers professional training degree programs in a wide variety of disciplines encompassing acting, art and public policy, dance, design, drama, game design, performance studies, film and television, cinema studies, photography and imaging, dramatic writing, musical theatre writing, recorded music, and interactive telecommunications.


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