For immediate release October 22, 2015

The Phi Beta Kappa Society Presents Award for Distinguished Service to Historian David McCullough

WASHINGTON, DC — The Phi Beta Kappa Society has named David McCullough —author, historian, and speaker—the recipient of The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities. Phi Beta Kappa presented the award to McCullough on October 10th at the 44th Triennial Council of the Society, in Denver, Colorado.  

The Award, presented once every three years, recognizes individuals for their significant contributions in the field of the humanities. It includes a cash 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. 

David McCullough is widely regarded as a “master of the art of narrative history.” He twice won each of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians. He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

His most recent book, the widely praised The Wright Brothers, achieved #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Reviewers called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, also a #1 bestseller, “history to be savored,” and acclaimed his 1776 as “a classic.” John Adams, published in 2001, remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time. McCullough’s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. Published in 17 languages, none of his books has ever been out of print.

David McCullough has also received the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award for his work overall and the National Humanities Medal and the Gold Medal for Biography given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has fifty-two honorary degrees.

During his productive career, McCullough has been an editor, teacher, lecturer, and a familiar presence on public television -- as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience. His voice is well known to television and movie viewers as narrator of numerous documentaries, including Ken Burns’ The Civil War, and the movie Seabiscuit.  John Adams, the seven-part HBO mini-series, based on McCullough’s book, was one of the most acclaimed television events of recent years.

A gifted speaker, McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, he graduated from Yale University with honors in English literature. He is an avid reader and traveler, and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture.  He is also a devoted painter. He and his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough have five children and nineteen grandchildren.


About The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Founded on Dec. 5, 1776, The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation's most prestigious academic honor society. It has chapters at 286 colleges and universities in the United States, almost 50 alumni associations, and more than half a million members worldwide. Noteworthy members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 130 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, visit