The event, hosted by the U-M Ford School, in celebration of Dr. Lewis receiving the prestigious National Humanities Medal, included an introduction by University President Santa Ono. Of Lewis, President Ono remarked, “I’ve seen him at different institutions, and I know how much he is admired, for his scholarship, but also for his support and mentorship of many, many people.” President Ono also congratulated Dr. Lewis on being the first U-M faculty member to receive the National Humanities Medal, a U.S. government award honoring individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, and broadened citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities subjects.



The evening continued with a conversation between Dr. Lewis and U-M’s Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, Celeste Watkins-Hayes. Dean Watkins-Hayes asked questions regarding the Humanities Medal, Dr. Lewis’ career across time and institutions, and the importance of humanities work. On the importance of national awards for scholarship, Dr. Lewis affirmed that “the awards symbolize, in many ways, that the work you do is not just about yourself.” Humanities work, says Dr. Lewis, supports the development of the “civic project called the United States of America.” To this point, Dr. Lewis and Dean Watkins-Hayes discussed the Center for Social Solutions’ four key initiatives, as well as the work of the Inclusive History Project, which Dr. Lewis co-chairs.



Closing remarks from LSA Dean Anne Curzan congratulated Dr. Lewis on his achievements, and celebrated his continued work at the University of Michigan. “I was in the Dean’s Office when we got word that Earl Lewis might be interested in returning to the University of Michigan,” says Dean Curzan. “Institutions are not known for moving quickly, or for consensus, and I have never seen so much consensus or speed in the LSA Dean’s Office than I saw at that moment.” Curzan noted Dr. Lewis’ contributions to the university and to the humanities at large, where he teaches us “to be unafraid to take on the hard questions,” and “to be unafraid of change, both in research and in administration.”



When asked how it felt to be honored in such a way by the University of Michigan and President Ono, Dr. Lewis said, "I'm so grateful to be recognized by the University, by my colleagues in the Ford School and LSA, and it was especially delightful to be introduced by President Santa Ono, who was one of my deputies when I was Provost at Emory University, so in many ways this was coming full circle." 


Watch a full recording of the event: