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Bruce Cole (left) , Susie Montgomery and Bill Helfand (Nov 2009)

Bruce Cole (1938 – January 8, 2018) was a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., a member of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, and the eighth Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Cole was born in Ohio and attended Case Western Reserve University. He earned the master's degree from Oberlin College and the doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. He received nine honorary doctorate degrees.

He and his wife Doreen lived in Virginia and had two children. Cole died on January 8, 2018.[1]

NEH ChairEdit

Cole's connection with the National Endowment for the Humanities began when, like thousands of others, he received an NEH fellowship. He subsequently served as peer-reviewer for NEH applications, and later as a member of the National Council on the Humanities.[citation needed]

From 2001 to 2009, Cole served as the eighth Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Cole was nominated twice by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate, once in 2001 and for a second term in 2005. Cole promoted some key initiatives at the Endowment, including We the People, a program designed to encourage the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture, and Picturing America, which used great American art to teach our nation's history and culture in 80,000 schools and public libraries nationwide.[citation needed] Cole also encouraged the expansion of support for digital projects by NEH, including grants specified for "digital humanities."[citation needed] Additionally, under his tenure, the NEH developed partnerships with several foreign countries, including Mexico and China.[citation needed]

Academic careerEdit

Before going to the NEH in December 2001, Cole taught at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was a Distinguished Professor of Art History and Professor of Comparative Literature. In 2008, he received the University's President's Medal for "excellence in service, achievement and teaching."[citation needed] In 2006, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels awarded Cole the Sagamore of the Wabash, which recognizes individuals who have brought distinction to the state of Indiana.

For two years, Cole was the William E. Suida Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Cole held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Kress Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He was a corresponding member of the Accademia Senese degli Intronati, the oldest learned society in Europe, and a founder and former co-president of the Association for Art History. He has written fourteen books and numerous articles.

Boards and honorsEdit

Cole served on many boards, including American Heritage Society,[2] the Jack Miller Center, the Villa Firenze Foundation, and the National Civic Art Society. In 2010, Cole was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to Indiana University's Board of Trustees. Previously, Cole served on the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the board of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and held a Senate-appointed position on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.

In November 2008, President Bush awarded Cole the Presidential Citizens Medal "for his work to strengthen our national memory and ensure that our country's heritage is passed on to future generations." The medal is one of the highest honors the President can confer upon a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Earlier in 2008, Cole was decorated as a Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor in the Republic of Italy.[citation needed]

In August 2013, President Obama appointed Cole to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which was tasked with overseeing the creation of the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.[citation needed] Cole had previously criticized the selected design by Frank Gehry in articles and congressional testimony. Cole serves on the board of advisors for the National Civic Art Society, which supports classical architecture and has been a chief critic of Gehry's memorial design.[3]

Selected written worksEdit

Cole has written fourteen books, including:

  • Informed Patriotism: We the People at Five Years
  • The Renaissance Artist at Work
  • Sienese Painting in the Age of the Renaissance
  • Italian Art, 1250-1550: The Relation of Art to Life and Society
  • Titian and Venetian Art, 1450–1590
  • Art of the Western World: From Ancient Greece to Post-Modernism
  • The Informed Eye: Understanding Masterpieces of Western Art


  1. ^ Reschke, Michael. "Bruce Cole, distinguished professor who led NEH for 8 years, dead at age 79". HeraldTimesOnline. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Zongker, Brett. "Obama Names Critic to Eisenhower Memorial Panel". Associated Press. Retrieved 4 September 2013.

External linksEdit