Chestertown – Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and current president and CEO of the American Revolution Center, gave a presentation at Washington College’s Casey Academic Center Forum on Monday, November 9, at 5 p.m.
In his talk, “My Provenance: From Aunt Gertrude to Sydney Freedberg,” Cole related his experiences as a lifelong devotee of Renaissance art and his work as the head of the NEH. The retrospective narrative touched on the influences, experiences and exposure to art that shaped Cole’s sensibilities from an early age. The mentors who cultivated his passion for art – from his aunt during his boyhood years to the great Renaissance art historian Sydney Freedberg during years of academic training – are recalled with fondness and gratitude.
Cole is one of America’s preeminent Renaissance art scholars. For two years he was the William E. Suida Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. He is a corresponding member of the Accademia Senese degli Intronati, the oldest learned society in Europe, and a founder and former co-president of the Association for Art History.
As chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Cole launched “We the People,” an initiative to encourage the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture. Under Cole’s leadership the NEH's budget increased for research, preservation, education and public programs on American history and culture and for the study of culture in other lands and in earlier civilizations.
Cole came to the Endowment in December 2001 from Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was Distinguished Professor of Art History and Professor of Comparative Literature. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Cole was chosen for a second term in 2005, a reappointment unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate.
In November 2008 President Bush awarded Cole the Presidential Citizens Medal “for his work to strengthen our national memory and ensure that our country’s heritage is passed on to future generations.”
The medal is one of the highest honors the President can confer upon a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Earlier in 2008, Cole was decorated Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor of the Republic of Italy.
In 2009 Cole became president and CEO of the American Revolution Center, which will have its headquarters in Philadelphia near Independence Hall. The American Revolution Center will establish the first national museum to commemorate the entire story of the American Revolution and its enduring legacy. The Center’s museum will display a distinguished collection of objects, artifacts and manuscripts from the American Revolution era, and will offer programming, lectures, symposia and interactive learning for teachers, students and the general public.
Cole’s appearance at Washington College is co-sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Friends of the Miller Library, the Department of Art and Art History, and the Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning.
Admission to “My Provenance: From Aunt Gertrude to Sydney Freedberg” is free and open to the public.