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2005 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients Named

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has named the fifth group of recipients of its Distinguished Achievement Awards. Intended to underscore the decisive contributions the humanities make to the nation’s intellectual life, the awards, amounting to as much as $1.5 million each, honor scholars who have made significant contributions to humanistic inquiry.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has named the fifth group of recipients of its Distinguished Achievement Awards.  Intended to underscore the decisive role the humanities play in the nation’s intellectual life, the awards honor scholars who have made significant contributions to humanistic inquiry and enable them to teach and do research under especially favorable conditions.  At the same time, the awards enlarge opportunities for scholarship and teaching at the academic institutions with which the recipients are affiliated.

Amounting to as much as $1.5 million each, the awards will provide the recipients and their institutions with resources to deepen and extend humanistic studies.  In contrast to other notable academic award programs that benefit individual scholars exclusively, the Distinguished Achievement Awards are designed to recognize the interdependence of scholars and their institutions.  Accordingly, while this grant program honors the achievements of individuals, the grants themselves will support specific institutional programs of activities that will enhance both research and teaching.

Four scholars were selected this year:

Timothy J. Clark, George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair and Professor of Modern Art at the University of California at Berkeley. Among the foremost and most influential art historians now at work, Professor Clark has made major contributions to the study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European art and modernism, but his intellect and imagination have influenced scholars and students throughout the humanities.  His works merge the history of art with social history while at the same time providing astonishingly original and profoundly researched readings of major figures in art and criticism including Courbet, Manet, and Picasso.  With deep grounding in primary materials and a keen eye for new evidence, Clark successfully combines uncompromising technical analysis of artistic technique and the physical details of visual masterpieces with vigorous arguments about broader cultural developments such as popular uprisings, bourgeois life, and urban development.  He is renowned as a great teacher and mentor, and his students have emerged as leaders in the field.

Thomas Nagel, University Professor at New York University. Regarded as one of America’s most distinguished living philosophers, Professor Nagel is best known for his pioneering work in the philosophy of mind and in ethics. He has also made important contributions in many other areas of the discipline, most recently in political philosophy.  Nagel has focused his attention on the relationship between mind and brain, the problem of consciousness and subjectivity, free will and responsibility, practical reasoning, the foundations of morality, the requirements of justice and equality, and the objectivity of rational judgments. Nagel’s writings are distinguished by their depth of vision, penetrating intelligence, and lucid articulation. His wider influence on moral, political, and legal philosophy is embodied in his frequent essays in the New York Review of Books and in the famous colloquium that he co-directs.  In his numerous pieces addressed to general audiences, Nagel has demonstrated how careful philosophical thought can contribute to the consideration of important public issues. An inspiring classroom teacher, Nagel’s record as an advisor of graduate students and mentor of younger colleagues is outstanding.

Stephen Owen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. Within the field of East Asian literary studies, Professor Owen is regarded as a leading authority in the world on Tang dynasty poetry and Chinese poetry more generally.  A prolific and provocative scholar of uncommon intellect and commitment to scholarship, he has brought previously unnoticed texts to critical attention and developed important new understandings of familiar works.  Through intensive monographic analysis, compilation and editing, and translations that are as graceful as they are faithful, Owen has significantly advanced the study of one of the world’s greatest but least accessible literary traditions and brought it to a wider English-reading audience both within and outside the academy.  A skilled comparatist, he is also deeply versed in Western and South Asian literature and he has made original and important contributions to literary theory based on his readings of Chinese literature and philosophy. His insistence on taking seriously the critical assumptions of the indigenous tradition has opened up Chinese literary thought to comparative literature theorists and scholars of other languages. Indeed, he is one of the few China specialists whose work has reached a readership beyond the field of Chinese literary studies.  At the same time, Owen is highly regarded in China, where scholars regularly cite his works, and from which top students come to study with him. He is well-known as a generous academic citizen, a superb teacher, and demanding mentor.  His lecture courses capture the imagination of large numbers of undergraduates while his graduate students are regarded as being among the very best in the field.

Joseph Roach, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater and Professor of English and African American Studies at Yale University. Professor Roach specializes in the history and theory of theater, dramatic literature, and performance studies both in the US and internationally. He has been a major force in developing the rapidly growing field of performance studies within the study of literature, and at the institutions with which he has been associated. His important and richly suggestive contributions, which treat acting, dancing, and all manner of public spectacle and entertainment, are distinguished by their rigor and conceptual boldness. Indeed, he has significantly influenced how academics define “performance,” well beyond conventional notions of theater. Drawing on a wide range of theatrical and non-theatrical source materials, Roach’s works bring great theoretical sophistication to bear on an intellectual terrain he has defined with remarkable breadth. His work has appealed to theater scholars seeking to forge links with other disciplines, and to anthropologists, cultural geographers, historians, literary critics, and other scholars who examine with the wide range of questions that surround the idea of “performativity.” Further, Roach has allied research, theory, and teaching with practice in the dozens of plays and operas he has staged throughout his career to date. He is known as an inspiring and effective teacher.

Distinguished Achievement Awards were first made in 2001 to Peter Brown, Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University; Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University; Sabine MacCormack, then at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, currently Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C, College of Arts and Letters Professor of History and Classics at the University of Notre Dame; Alexander Nehamas, Edmund N. Carpenter II Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Princeton University; and Robert Pippin, Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought, Department of Philosophy, and the College at the University of Chicago.

The award’s second group of recipients, selected in 2002, consists of Michael Cook, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Russian History at the University of Chicago; Michael McCormick, Francis Goelet Professor of Medieval History at Harvard University; Jerome McGann, John Stewart Bryan Professor of English at the University of Virginia; and Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 2003, the award recipients were Roger S. Bagnall, Professor of Classics and History at Columbia University; Robert B. Brandom, Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh; Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University; and Christopher Ricks, Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

Last year, the following four scholars were selected: John Dower, Ford International Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Michael Fried, James R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and Professor of the History of Art at the Johns Hopkins University; Philip Gossett, Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor of Music at the University of Chicago; and Christine Korsgaard, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.

The awards are for three years, with funds being granted to, and overseen by, the recipients’ institutions.  Although the uses of funds differ in each case and reflect a wide range of scholarly interests and institutional settings, in general, the awards underwrite a portion of recipients’ salaries and their research expenses, while also providing support for colleagues and students engaged in collaboration with the awardees.  The recipients will be expected to spend at least two of the three years on their home campuses.  Previous years’ awards are being used to bring co-workers and visiting scholars to the recipients’ institutions; to provide postdoctoral and graduate fellowships; to subsidize instruction in areas not offered by their institutions; and to support an array of scholarly projects including the preparation and editing of texts, the development of electronic scholarly tools, seminars and meetings to explore promising new directions in the relevant fields, and archeological excavations.

The recipients of the awards were selected through an intensive process of nomination and review.  Final selections were made by a panel of distinguished scholars led by Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English at the University of Virginia.  The selection panel consisted also of Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University; Elizabeth Cropper, Dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art; J. Paul Hunter, Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor Emeritus, Department of English Language and Literature and the College at the University of Chicago; Jerome B. Schneewind, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University; and Heinrich von Staden, Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study.

Recipients are chosen from such fields as classics, history, history of art, musicology, philosophy, religious studies, and all areas of literary studies, including the study of foreign literatures.  Recipients of the awards must hold tenured appointments at US institutions of higher education.

As William G. Bowen, the Foundation’s president, has observed: “The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has, from its inception, been dedicated to enabling first rate scholars and institutions to cultivate and to advance humanistic learning and understanding. These awards are made in recognition of individuals who have excelled in that mission and whose work and influence continue to enrich the broader community of humanistic studies.”

Martha Sullivan
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
(212) 838-8400

Further description of the Distinguished Achievement Awards, and the Foundation’s programs for research universities and humanistic scholarship, is available here.


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