Originally published July 10, 2013 on RVAnews.com.
University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, Ph. D., is being honored at the White House today with a 2012 National Humanities Medal. President Obama will present Ayers and 11 others the award for their work in influencing the understanding and preservation of humanities nationally.
Ayers, a renowned Civil War historian and higher education expert, is being recognized for his “commitment to making our history as widely available and accessible as possible,” according to a statement by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The North Carolina native fell in love with history and teaching during his undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee and has written and edited 10 books.
“There’s a radically democratic purpose behind all that I do…When you see what the humanities have to offer, you want to share them as broadly as you can,” Ayers told Donna Lucey of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Ayers spent over 25 years as professor then later college dean at the University of Virginia before entering his current post as president of University of Richmond in July 2007. The historian is also known for his work in the development of American Civil War digital history project “The Valley of the Shadow” and the digital mapping project “Visualizing Emancipation,” currently evolving at UR.
“The humanities changed my life, and I’m just trying to make it as useful to people as possible.”
Sports writer Frank Deford, political scientist Robert D. Putnam, and actress Anna Devere Smith are among others selected for the national award today. Natalie Zemon Davis of the University of Toronto is the only other historian being recognized.