"Indiana University: An Era of Progress"

Extract from remarks delivered at the IUAA DC Chapter Reception Honoring Bruce Cole with the President's Medal
Australian Embassy
Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2008

Arts and Humanities

At the same time as we are looking towards global horizons, we are also strengthening our infrastructure right here at home. The construction priorities I mentioned just a few moments ago include three projects specifically designed to enhance Indiana University’s glorious traditions in the arts and humanities.

The first grows out of an extraordinarily generous $44 million gift from the Lilly Endowment that will fund a much-needed practice facility for our great Jacobs School of Music. In addition, plans are underway for a $15 million renovation of the University Theatre into a state of the art cinema facility and theater rehearsal space.

Plans are also underway for the construction of an International Studies Building that will bring together our excellent programs in world languages and cultures and provide them with new, specially-designed instructional facilities. This will involve an investment of over $40 million by the university.

All told, this totals over $100 million of new buildings, facilities, programs, and other resources. This is perhaps the largest single investment in the arts and humanities at IU Bloomington for over 50 years.

Honoring Bruce Cole

That kind of investment in the arts and humanities is vital to their preservation, and perhaps nobody in this room knows this better than our honored guest, Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It is convincing testimony to the strength of Indiana University’s academic programs and faculty that Bruce Cole, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at Indiana University, was nominated in 2001 by the President of the United States to serve as the eighth chairman of the endowment. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for a first term in 2001 and for a second term in 2005.

Cole's History in Art History

I understand that he traces his love for the arts to childhood trips to the Cleveland Art Museum with his Aunt Gertrude. But it was as a freshman in college that he found his calling when he first saw the painting “The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul” in a textbook. He described the moment as “an epiphany” that led him to dedicate himself to the study of the Italian Renaissance.1

Since that moment, Bruce has achieved great distinction both within his field of art history and in the broader arts community. According to Douglas Lewis, curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the National Gallery, “Cole has become one of the household names in art history.”2

Cole's Career and Honors

He started his career at the University of Rochester and joined the IU faculty in 1973, achieving the highest rank of Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts during his nearly three decade tenure. He is the author of over a dozen books on Renaissance art and related subjects and the recipient of numerous awards, including nine honorary degrees.

He has held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Philosophical Society, among others. He is a corresponding member of the Accademia Senese degli [DAY yee] Intronati, the oldest learned society in Europe, and he founded the Association for Art History. However, he may be proudest of his induction as a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2006, since he shares this honor with President Wells, who received it not once but six times.

Cole at the National Endowment for the Humanities

These awards and honors reflect the measure of dedication that Bruce brings to every endeavor. Since beginning his tenure with the endowment, Bruce has spearheaded such efforts as the Digital Humanities Initiative and the We the People Program. Programs such as these highlight the crucial role history plays in strengthening democracy and offer a vision of the future with enhanced opportunities created by technological advances. Bruce has dedicated himself to what he calls “the challenge of restoring America’s memory.”3

As he explained in a recent senate subcommittee hearing, “Americans are bound by ideas and ideals that every citizen must know for our republic to survive. That survival is not preordained; the habits and principles of our democracy must be learned anew and passed down to each generation.”4

The strength of our democracy depends upon the strength of our education. Bruce has been building upon those strengths as an educator and as a public servant, serving Indiana University generously with his time and energy and serving our nation with his passionate dedication to preserving and enhancing our democracy and our culture.

Presenting the President's Medal

In recognition of the depth of Bruce’s dedication to public service it is my great pleasure to present him with the highest honor an Indiana University president can bestow.

Bruce, would you please join me at the podium? The President’s Medal for Excellence is a reproduction in fine silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by Indiana University’s president at ceremonial occasions. Three precious stones within the jewel represent the university’s cultivation of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Criteria for recipients of this honor include distinction in public service, service to Indiana University, achievement in a profession, and/or extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and industry.

The President’s Medal for Excellence is accompanied by a scroll that reads: Indiana University gratefully recognizes the exemplary contributions of the honorable Bruce M. Cole, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Chair [of the] National Endowment of the Humanities, by bestowing upon him the President’s Medal in recognition of sustained excellence in service, achievement, and leadership. Given this 17th day of June, 2008, in Washington, D.C. Would you all join me in congratulating Bruce Cole?

Source Notes

  1. Trescott, Jacqueline. “The Scholar’s Call to Arms – Bruce Cole Sees the Humanities as Key to Building a Homeland Defense.” Washington Post 6 March 2002. News Bank Access World News. Indiana University Libraries. . Retrieved on 10 June 2008.
  2. Trescott.
  3. Cole, Bruce. “Humanities Must Strive to Reverse American Amnesia.” Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) 18 September 2004. NewsBank Access World News. Indiana University Libraries. Retrieved on 10 June 2008.
  4. Cole, Bruce. “Prepared Statement of Chairman Bruce Cole Before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, U.S. House of Representatives.” National Endowment of the Humanities 11 March 2008. Retrieved on 10 June 2008.