Press Releases | Trusteeship

Hank Brown to Receive 2015 Merrill Award

Major Award for Contributions to the Liberal Arts to be Presented at ACTA’s 20th Anniversary Gala in October
June 5, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni announced today the selection of Hank Brown as the recipient of the 2015 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Liberal Arts. Named in honor of philanthropist and public servant Philip Merrill, the award honors individuals who, through their work, promote a greater understanding of history and the importance of the liberal arts.

“Hank is an inspiration to all of us who seek to maintain the greatness of American higher education. His unwavering commitment to academic freedom, high academic standards, and integrity in university governance make him the perfect choice to receive this award,” said ACTA President Anne Neal. “He was here with us from the very beginning and we are so thankful for all the work that he has done to improve America’s colleges and universities.”

Brown served as the president of the University of Colorado and before that, the president of the University of Northern Colorado. The Chronicle of Higher Education called him “The Rescuer,” for leading the University of Colorado out of the crisis that preceded his presidency, and the Wall Street Journal praised his thoughtful and judicious management of the university. While president, he steadfastly and successfully championed intellectual diversity, academic rigor, and the study of Western Civilization, often in the face of opposition.

Brown also led the Daniels Fund as its president and CEO, in his first two years reducing overhead by 35% and shifting $2 million annually toward increased funding of grants and scholarship. He was a member of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Colorado State Senate. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1962 to 1966 and was decorated for his combat service as a forward air controller.

Brown is one of 22 signatories to the Governance for a New Era report organized by ACTA—a call for trustees to take up their fiduciary responsibility for cost-effectiveness, high academic standards, academic freedom, and institutional integrity, while navigating the challenges of 21st century innovation. He has also worked closely with ACTA to reform accreditation. He authored a policy paper released by ACTA and the American Enterprise Institute that has significantly informed the debate about the Higher Education Act Reauthorization, and the Wall Street Journal published his op-ed, which revealed accreditors’ overreaching intrusion into institutional and state autonomy.

“It has been a privilege to work with Hank throughout the years: he models the kind of leadership that American higher education most urgently needs,” said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at ACTA. “Hank Brown is virtually unique in the way in which he combines profound devotion to the life of the mind, understanding of the purpose of a university, and the keen pragmatism that keeps an institution efficient and effective. He exemplifies everything that the Merrill Award seeks to honor.”

The Merrill Award is named in honor of Philip Merrill, a distinguished public servant, publisher, businessman, and philanthropist who served as a trustee of Cornell University, the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Throughout his career, Merrill was a passionate proponent of academic excellence and an articulate spokesman for the importance of historical literacy in a free society. Merrill was also a charter member of ACTA’s national council.

distinguished committee of educational and civic leaders from around the country advised the selection. The previous winners of the award are:

·         2014—Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society

·         2013—Gary Gallagher, noted Civil War historian and professor of history at the University of Virginia

·         2012—Thomas M. Rollins, founder of The Teaching Company

·         2011—David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author

·         2010—Benno Schmidt, past president of Yale University and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York

·         2009—Robert “KC” Johnson, distinguished scholar of 20th century history and professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center

·         2008—Donald Kagan, author of the magisterial four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War and Yale professor emeritus

·         2007—Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor emerita of history at the CUNY Graduate Center

·         2006—Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government at Harvard University

·         2005—Robert P. George, McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and the founding director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University

The award will be presented during ACTA’s 20thAnniversary Gala on October 16, 2015, at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.

Colleen Wilhide       

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability in American higher education.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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