At a gala dinner on Friday, ACTA awarded the 2007 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education to Dr. Gertrude Himmelfarb. Just prior to the event, we received a message from James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, who was planning to attend the award dinner but had to cancel at the last minute. We are pleased to reprint the following:
To my great regret I will not be able to attend the dinner and presentation of the Merrill Award to Dr. Gertrude Himmelfarb. I am truly sorry, but I have to leave for Moscow earlier than expected tomorrow. I really wanted to pay tribute to this remarkable scholar. She has been a perceptive humanistic commentator on Western civilization for as long as I can remember—and is herself an exemplar of the best in it.
I hope that you could convey to her and any others that might be interested tonight my admiration for the remarkable record she has had—not only as an author and spokesperson for Western civilization in the academy, but also for the generous amount of time and wisdom she has given to many institutions to keep alive deep humanistic studies rooted in the Western cultural heritage.
She was a valuable advisor to me when I was running the Wilson Center and to the Scholars Council of our new Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The late Charles Blitzer enormously valued her counsel when he was running the National Humanities Center and later the Wilson Center. All of these scholarly enterprises benefited in their early formative period from wisdom she shared as well as the example she set. I am confident that the late Pat Moynihan is rejoicing along with many others past, present (and indeed future) in paying tribute to this great lady. Please extend to her congratulations for being the anchor of a great family and of the broader human family. I am sure Phil Merrill would also be among those singing her praises on this occasion. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni does important work and deserves special credit for honoring Bea.
Sincerely, James H. Billington
The Librarian of Congress
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