For immediate release August 4, 2018

The Phi Beta Kappa Society Presents Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities to
Lonnie G. Bunch III

Phi Beta Kappa Society Honors Director of National Museum
of African American History and Culture with Humanities Award

WASHINGTON, DC, August 4, 2018 — The Phi Beta Kappa Society has named Lonnie G. Bunch III — historian, educator, and museum curator — the recipient of The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities. The Society presented the award to Bunch on August 4th at the 45th Triennial Council of the Society, in Boston, Massachusetts.  

The Award, presented once every three years, recognizes individuals for their significant contributions in the field of the humanities. It includes a $10,000 prize and a medal named for Mr. and Mrs. William B. Jaffe, whose gift enabled the creation of the award in 1970. Mr. Jaffe was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Union College. 

Before his July 2005 appointment as director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Bunch served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society (2001–2005). There, he led a successful capital campaign to transform the Historical Society in celebration of its 150th anniversary, managed an institutional reorganization, initiated an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities and launched a much-lauded exhibition and program on teenage life titled “Teen Chicago.”

Since its opening in 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than four million visitors.  Citing its 12 critically acclaimed inaugural exhibitions, its award-winning interactive displays, and public programs that explore challenging contemporary issues, Washingtonian Magazine named it “The Best Museum in Washington.”

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from the black military experience, the American presidency and all-black towns in the American West to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. Lectures and presentations to museum professionals and scholars have taken him to major cities in the United States and many nations abroad, including Australia, China, England, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Sweden.

In addition to his curatorial work, Bunch has held numerous teaching positions at universities across the country, including American University in Washington, D.C. (1978–1979), the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth (1979–1981), and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1989–2000). Born in the Newark, N.J., area, Director Bunch earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from American University.

Bunch served as a trustee of the American Association of Museums and the Council of the American Association of State and Local History and was a member of the American Antiquarian Society. In 2002, Bunch was appointed to the Commission for the Preservation of the White House during the George W. Bush administration and was reappointed to the Commission in 2010 by President Obama. In 2005, Bunch was named one of the 100 most influential museum professionals of the 20th century by the American Association of Museums. In 2017 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Read his exclusive interview in the Key Reporter.


About The Phi Beta Kappa Society

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded on Dec. 5, 1776, is the nation's most prestigious academic honor society. It has chapters at 286 colleges and universities in the United States, nearly 50 alumni associations, and more than half a million members worldwide. Noteworthy members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 40 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 140 Nobel Laureates. The mission of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought, and recognize academic excellence. 

For more information about The Phi Beta Kappa Society, visit