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Governor’s Awards in the Humanities

The Massachusetts Governor’s Awards in the Humanities recognize individuals for their public actions, grounded in an appreciation of the humanities, to enhance civic life in the Commonwealth. Each year the Mass Humanities Board of Directors selects nominees who are confirmed by the Governor of Massachusetts. Established in 2014, the awards are presented at an annual event. 

Thank you 2021 Governor’s Awards Supporters!

The 2021 virtual celebration was livestreamed on Sunday, October 24. You can watch the program below, honoring John Burgess, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sonia Nieto, and Heather Cox Richardson. Proceeds from sponsorships, ticket sales, and direct donations are being put to use to maintain and enhance the Clemente Course, Reading Frederick Douglass Together, and other humanities-based programming that reaches people throughout Massachusetts.


Laureate: Anonymous

Luminary: Lia and William Poorvu

Champions: Amy and David Abrams · The Beveridge Family Foundation · Eastern Bank · Elizabeth and Roberto Goizueta · Ronald and Colleen Hertel · The Fletcher School at Tufts University · Al and Sally Griggs · K|B Private Wealth Management · New England Public Media · Stephen Rosenfeld and Margot Botsford · Seyfarth Shaw, LLP · Howard and Fredericka Stevenson · Lisbeth Tarlow · WilmerHale

Benefactors: Lisa Unger Baskin · Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts · John and Marie Dacey · Paul and Patty Gannon · Perrin and Bruns Grayson · Dr. Stephen and Mrs. Darcy Immerman · William A. Lowell · Michael Pappone and Diane Savitzky · Raymond James Financial Advisors Michael Serafino and Geoffrey Moore · Wendy Shattuck and Samuel Plimpton · Smith College

John Burgess practiced corporate and international law at the firm WilmerHale for more than three decades. He currently teaches Law of the Sea at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been a visiting professor internationally. Burgess spent a year at the U.S. State Department during the START Treaty negotiations. He is currently a member of the WBUR board of directors and chair of the governance committee. He has served as a trustee of the Roxbury Latin School; a director on the Mass Humanities board from 2003 to 2010, the final two years as chair; and as a member of several other boards. Read more in his essay, “Two-Way Streets.”

Annette Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard. Gordon-Reed has won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. She is the current president of The Ames Foundation of Harvard Law School. A selected list of her honors includes a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, and the Frederick Douglass Book Prize. Gordon-Reed served as a member of the board of trustees of Dartmouth College from 2010 to 2018. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Read more in the interview “The Same Sense of Wonder”.

Sonia Nieto is professor emerita of language, literacy, and culture in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her teaching has spanned early elementary through doctoral education and her research has focused on the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with a special emphasis on Latin@ students. She is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and has written or edited 13 books, including a memoir, Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education. The first edition (1992) of her classic text, Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, was selected for the Museum of Education Readers’ Guide as “one of the 100 books that helped define the field of education in the 20th century.” Dr. Nieto has received numerous awards including 9 honorary doctorates. Read more in her essay, “You Can’t Be Neutral.”

Heather Cox Richardson is professor of history at Boston College and the author of six acclaimed books about American politics, most recently How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. Her books, West from Appomattox and To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party were Editor’s Choice selections of the New York Times Book Review. Richardson is a national commentator on American political history and the Republican Party. She is a leading #Twitterstorian, and the author of Letters from an American, a chronicle of modern political history that appears on Facebook and in newsletter format. With Professor Joanne Freeman, she is the co-host of the podcast Now & Then. Read more in the interview “What Was at Stake in Our History.”

The 2021 Awards Committee: Co-chairs Denise Kaigler and Amy Macdonald; Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, Al Griggs, Jeff Musman, Nancy Netzer, Lia Poorvu, Marita Rivero

2021 Governor’s Awards Media Partner

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