2015 Archives

Historian David McCullough receives Medal of Freedom from SMU's Tower Center

November 19, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – David McCullough, the prolific writer frequently referred to as “America’s greatest historian,” received the Medal of Freedom from SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Historian David McCullough with President George Bush and Laura Bush
Historian David McCullough (center) with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony.

McCullough spoke at a Q&A-style public forum moderated by SMU Tower Scholar Sara Jendrusch in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. After the event, McCullough received the Medal of Freedom award at a private dinner that included a discussion moderated by former Wyoming Senator Alan K. Simpson.

The Tower Center Medal of Freedom is presented every two years to an individual or individuals who have contributed to the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity.

McCullough has twice won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award. He has received the United States’ highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his “lifelong efforts to document the people, places and events that have shaped America.”

“David McCullough is a national treasure. His historical work is breathtaking in scope,” says Joshua Rovner, SMU Tower Center Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security. “No one has done more to engage Americans in their own political history, warts and all. He is also a dazzling writer, with a rare talent for transforming complex events into truly engrossing narratives.”

His newest book, The Wright Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2015), is a New York Times bestseller about the American Dream story of Wilbur and Orville Wright, two brothers from Ohio who profoundly changed history on a winter day in 1903.

McCullough’s 11 books include two Pulitzer Prize-winners: Truman (1993), about the seemingly ordinary man from Missouri who was perhaps the most courageous president in history, and John Adams (2001), a work focusing on founding father/second U.S president that became one of the most widely read American biographies of all time and spawned a seven-part HBO mini-series produced by Tom Hanks.

Fueled by his belief that “history is the study of people,” McCullough’s books have been translated and published in 10 languages, and more than nine million copies are in print. McCullough is one of the rare writers whose books never have been out of print.

Throughout his highly productive career, McCullough has been an editor, teacher, lecturer and familiar presence on public television as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience and narrator of numerous documentaries including Ken Burns’ The Civil War. His is also the narrator’s voice in the movie Seabiscuit.

A gifted speaker, McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, as well as at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1933, McCullough graduated from Yale with honors in English literature. He is an avid reader, traveler and has enjoyed a lifelong interest in art and architecture. He also is a devoted painter. He and his wife Rosalee Barnes McCullough have five children and 19 grandchildren.

The Tower Center, located within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, supports teaching and research programs in international and domestic politics with an emphasis on global studies and national security policy. It also educates undergraduates in international relations, comparative politics and political institutions.

Past Tower Center Medal of Freedom recipients include former Secretary of States James A. Baker III and Colin L. Powell; U.S. Senator John McCain; former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as former First Lady Laura Bush.

For more details about The Tower Center, visit http://www.smu.edu/towercenter or call 214-768-3954. Follow them on Twitter @SMUTowerCenter and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/towercenter.

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