Press Releases | General Education

Alan Charles Kors to be Honored as ACTA’s 2023 Philip Merrill Award Winner

October 6, 2023

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is proud to name Professor Alan Charles Kors as the winner of our 2023 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education. ACTA bestows this honor annually on extraordinary individuals who have advanced liberal arts education, core curricula, and the teaching of Western Civilization and American history. As a distinguished scholar of European history, an award-winning teacher, and cofounder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Dr. Kors embodies the qualities that the late Philip Merrill envisioned when he established the award.

“In his long and distinguished career as a scholar, teacher, humanist, and citizen of the academy, Professor Kors has exemplified the values and virtues on which true education rests,” said ACTA President Michael Poliakoff. “It is not accidental that the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment would also be the most consequential figure of our generation in the struggle to protect campus freedom of expression. He breathes the very spirit of the Enlightenment: an open mind, a commitment to human freedom, and a devotion to intellectual rigor. He has been a storied mentor to the students fortunate to be in his classroom and also to those beyond who have been inspired by his writing and his public lectures. ACTA is privileged to present to Alan Charles Kors the Philip Merrill Award.”

Dr. Kors joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, where he now holds the post of Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of European History. He served as editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment and has written several books and many articles on early modern French intellectual history. He served for six years on the National Council for the Humanities and has received fellowships from the American Council for Learned Societies, the Smith-Richardson Foundation, and the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded the National Humanities Medal to Dr. Kors for his dedication to the study of the humanities and the defense of academic freedom. Three years after accepting the National Humanities Medal, Dr. Kors also received the prestigious Bradley Prize. In 1999, Dr. Kors cofounded FIRE with Harvey Silverglate and later served as its pro bono codirector, president, and chairman.

Dr. Kors will accept the award and deliver remarks at ACTA’s Philip Merrill Award Gala on October 27, 2023, in Washington, DC. Tribute speakers will include Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University; C. Bradley Thompson, professor of political science at Clemson University and executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism; and American historian Allen C. Guelzo, who serves as senior research scholar in the Council of the Humanities and director of the Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.

To see a full list of ACTA’s former Merrill Award winners, click here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gabrielle Anglin


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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