Humanities Award

The Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities is given to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions in the field of the humanities. The award includes a cash prize and a medal named for Mr. and Mrs. William B. Jaffe, whose gift of $25,000 enabled the Society to create the award in 1970. Mr. Jaffe was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Union College.

Recipients of the award are honored at the triennial meetings of the Council of Phi Beta Kappa.

Nominations should include: A letter of nomination from a person familiar with the nominee's qualifying work, a copy of the nominee's curriculum vitae, and the nominator's and nominee's contact information, including email addresses.  Please email nominations and all supporting materials to Jen Horneman at  If you have any questions, please contact Jen at (202) 745-3287.

Previous winners include:

2015 David McCullough, Pulitzer-Prize winning author
2012 Patricia Meyer Spacks, author and former President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Douglas Greenberg, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University  (To read Greenberg's acceptance address from the 42nd Triennial Council click here.)  
2006 Gerald Early, Merle Kling Professor of Letters and Director of the Center for Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis
2003 Robert Pinsky, professor of English and creative writing at Boston University and former Poet Laureate of the United States
2000 Richard Franke, chairman and founder of the Chicago Humanities Festival and CEO of The John Nuveen Company
1997 Joseph Epstein, renowned essayist and former editor of The American Scholar
1990 John E. Sawyer, former president of the John Mellon Foundation, and Congressman Sidney Yates
1988 Daniel J. Boorstin, retired Librarian of Congress
1985 Robert M. Lumiansky, past president of both the American Council of Learned Societies and Phi Beta Kappa
1982 Dumas Malone, the distinguished Jefferson scholar and Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia
1979 The National Humanities Center in memory of Charles Frankel, the teacher and philosopher who helped found the Center and served as its first director
1976 Louis B. Wright, former director of the Folger Shakespeare Library
1973 Howard Mumford Jones, Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor for the Humanities at Harvard University
1970 Barnaby C. Keeney, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former president of Brown University
Love of learning is the guide of life.