University President Drew G. Faust has been named the 2011 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to a press release published Monday.
The nomination is the most prestigious honor the federal government awards for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities, according to NEH.
“I’m honored by this opportunity,” Faust said in a statement released by the University. “I care deeply about the vital role the humanities play not only in the academy but in the larger civic life of our nation and culture.”
Before being appointed Harvard’s 28th president in 2007, Faust was a preeminent scholar of the Civil War and the American South, focusing her research on the human consequences of the Civil War and its effect on antebellum Southern society.
Her most recent book “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” describes the impact of the Civil War’s tremendous death toll on 19th-century American life and culture. The book won the Bancroft Prize in 2009, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and The New York Times named it one of the “10 Best Books of 2008.”
“It is a rare individual who can break new ground from both the library archives and the president’s podium,” NEH Chairman Jim Leach said in the press release. “Drew Gilpin Faust is a pathfinder, as a scholar and a leader in higher education. This distinguished historian has revealed for us the lives and minds of those confronted by the turbulent social changes of the Civil War era, and then proceeded to apply extraordinary administrative skills to leadership of one of the world’s premiere academic institutions.”
Established in 1972, the Jefferson Lecture recognizes an individual who has made exceptional academic contributions in the humanities and who has the skill to draw widespread interest to the knowledge and philosophy of the humanities. Past Jefferson Lecturers have included Jonathan Spence, John Updike, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Bernard Bailyn, Toni Morrison, Arthur Miller, James McPherson, Barbara Tuchman, and Robert Penn Warren.
Faust will deliver her lecture, titled “Telling War Stories: Reflections of a Civil War Historian,” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 2, in Washington, D.C.
“I’m particularly pleased to speak this year,” Faust said. “As we reflect on the Civil War and the meanings it continues to hold for how we define ourselves as a nation and how we understand the experience of war, death, and the impact of catastrophic events on all those who live through them.”