Five Women Academics Awarded the National Humanities Medal

nhm-feature-thumbNine individuals received the National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony on September 10. Winners of the National Humanities Medal are honored for outstanding achievements in “history, cultural studies, filmmaking, cultural commentary, and historic preservation.” Among the nine individual winners are five women with current ties to the academic world.


(L to R) Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Jhumpa Lahiri, Fedwa Malti-Douglas, and Vicki Lynn Ruiz

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is professor of philosophy at the New College of the Humanities London. She has taught at Barnard College and Columbia University and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Professor Goldstein is the author seven novels and several works of nonfiction including Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (Pantheon, 2014). A former MacArthur Fellow, Professor Goldstein is a summa cum laude graduate of Barnard College and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She will be a visiting professor at New York University in 2016.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African American Studies at Harvard University. Her great-grandfather Albert Royal Brooks was born a slave and served on the jury in the trial of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. She is the author of several books including Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880–1920 (Harvard University Press, 1993). She co-authored with John Hope Franklin, the ninth edition of From Slavery to Freedom (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Professor Higginbotham earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a master’s degree from Howard University and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.

Jhumpa Lahiri is a new professor of creative writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University in New Jersey. She recently served as a writer-in-residence at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. Her 1999 collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize and her 2013 novel, The Lowland, was finalist for the National Book Award. Professor Lahiri was born in London to Indian parents from West Bengal. She came to the United States at the age of 2, when her father accepted a position as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Lahiri is a graduate of Barnard College in New York City. She holds master’s degrees in English literature, creative writing, and comparative literature and a Ph.D. in Renaissance studies from Boston University.

Fedwa Malti-Douglas is the Martha C. Kraft Professor of Humanities emerita at Indiana University. The citation accompanying her National Humanities Medal says that she was honored for “her studies of Arabic letters. Dr. Douglas has mapped the discourse of gender and letters in the Arab Middle East and applied her insights to American culture.” A native of Lebanon, Professor Malti-Douglas came to the United States at the age of 12. Dr. Malti-Douglas is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She also earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at Bennington College in Vermont. She is the author of several works of nonfiction and two novels and served as editor-in-chief of four-volume Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (Macmillan, 2007).

Vicki Lynn Ruiz is a Distinguished Professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Ruiz is a summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University. Her Ph.D. dissertation was converted into the book Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950 (University of New Mexico Press 1987). She is also co-editor of the three-volume Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia (Indiana University Press, 2006). Dr. Ruiz has served as president of the Organization of American Historians.

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