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The White House has announced the distinguished recipients of the 2014 National Humanities Medal, and a program Tim McCarthy, adjunct lecturer in public policy is heavily involved with, is among the honorees.
For the last 15 years McCarthy has made the eight-mile trek, on Monday and Wednesday nights, to Codman Square in Dorchester for The Clemente Course in the Humanities program to teach American history.
The Clemente Course in the Humanities is a college level curriculum that uses the Socratic Method to teach low-income adult students moral philosophy, literature, American history, art history, critical thinking, and writing.
The National Humanities Medal recognizes an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources. President Barack Obama will present the medals tomorrow (Sept. 10) in a ceremony in the East Room.
"The National Humanities Medal is an amazing and unexpected honor for the work that we all do," said McCarthy. "It's also a special honor to receive this award from President Obama, a widely admired political leader who has both a deep understanding of American history and a genuine appreciation for the humanities more broadly. It's humbling to be in such company, but it also inspires us to continue this important work."
The Clemente Course in the Humanities works to remove traditional barriers to higher education. There is no tuition. Those accepted to the course are provided free books, and the earned college credits are readily transferable to other institutions. Furthermore, the course provides access to child care and transportation. As a result, students succeed. More than ten thousand students worldwide have attended a Clemente Course, and more than fifty percent have successfully completed it.
"The Boston Clemente Course in Dorchester has been particularly successful in this regard, consistently achieving retention, graduation, and college placement rates that are among the highest in the nation," said McCarthy. "I've been blessed to teach in and help to direct the Clemente Course in Dorchester since its inception in 2001. This has been one of the most rewarding and remarkable teaching experiences of my life. I have learned so much over the years from my students and colleagues, not only about the value of the humanities but about our common humanity as well."
In 2014, McCarthy, McCarthy received the course’s first-ever endowed chair, the Stanley Paterson Professorship in American History. The executive director of Mass Humanities, which sponsors the Clemente Course in Dorchester, said this of Tim’s achievement, “Tim is not only an extraordinarily gifted and generous teacher of American history; he has been the charismatic soul of the Dorchester Clemente Course in the Humanities for more than a decade… The Stanley Paterson Chair in American History is the first endowed chair at any Clemente Course in the country. No one deserves to occupy it more than Tim.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) manages the nominations process for the National Humanities Medal on behalf of the White House. The National Council on the Humanities, NEH’s presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.
The 2014 class of recipients include Annie Dillard, author; Everett L. Fly, architect and preservationist; and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard professor and historian.
Tim McCarthy, adjunct lecturer in public policy
"It's humbling to be in such company, but it also inspires us to continue this important work."
Tim McCarthy, adjunct lecturer in public policy (in the back row), is pictured with recent graduates of the Dorchester Clemente Course in the Humanities.