During a ceremony at the White House on July 10, Denison alumnus William G. Bowen ’55, president emeritus of both Princeton University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. Bowen’s son, David, accepted the award on his behalf. Bowen was chosen for his work as an economist and as a leader in advancing higher education and the humanities.
The citation put it this way: Bowen was honored “for his contributions to the study of economics and his probing research on higher education in America. While his widely discussed publications have scrutinized the effects of policy, Dr. Bowen has used his leadership to put theories into practice and strive for new heights of academic excellence.”
Bowen did just that, first as provost at Princeton, where he worked to increase diversity on campus and helped to usher in coeducation at the university, and later as Princeton’s president, when he helped to create the residential college system, grew the faculty, expanded the physical campus, and increased the endowment all in an effort to enhance the university and the education it offers, not only in the sciences, but in the arts and humanities, as well.
As president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bowen helped to strengthen the humanities and higher education through grants. Under his leadership, the foundation conducted research on doctoral education, the collegiate admissions process, independent research libraries, and charitable nonprofits.
Bowen, a Denison life trustee, has written or co-written 20 books that explore topics such as race in the admissions process, the roles of athletics and technology in academics, access in higher education, and thoughts on presidential and trustee leadership in colleges and universities.
“Bill’s contributions to higher education and American society are immense,” said Denison President Adam Weinberg. “He has led some of our finest institutions, while being a consistent thought leader on the big issues that matter. He represents the very best of Denison, higher education, and American society.”
“Bill’s work emphatically supports the need to make college education accessible to all groups within our society, and it has had a major impact on public policy debates and university leadership,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.
The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, is sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities. Recipients of the medal this year include sportswriter Frank DeFord, essayist Joan Didion, political scientist Robert Putnam, and historian Natalie Zemon Davis, among others.
On a related note, at the same White House ceremony, soprano Renée Fleming, who visited Granville as a Vail Series artist in 2009, received a National Medal of Arts from Obama.