Bruce Cole was a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His areas of expertise included the teaching of American history and civics, and private and federal cultural policy.
Mr. Cole, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was the author of fourteen books and numerous articles. His fifteenth book, Art from the Swamp, was published in 2018 by Encounter Books.
Under Mr. Cole’s leadership (from 2001 to 2009), the NEH launched key initiatives, including We the People, a program designed to encourage the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture, and the Picturing America project, which uses great American art to teach our nation’s history and culture in 80,000 schools and public libraries nationwide. He also created the NEH’s Digital Humanities Initiative and Office, which made the NEH a national leader in this new frontier of humanities access and knowledge. Under his tenure—the longest in NEH history—the NEH developed partnerships with several foreign countries, including Mexico and China. Mr. Cole managed a budget of $150 million and a staff of 170 and was responsible for awards totaling over $800 million dollars.
Before taking the NEH chairmanship, Mr. Cole was Distinguished Professor of Art History and Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington. In 2008, he received the President’s Medal from the University for “excellence in service, achievement and teaching.” In 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels awarded Mr. Cole the Sagamore of the Wabash, which recognizes individuals who have brought distinction to the state of Indiana.
Born in Ohio, Mr. Cole earned his B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, a master’s degree from Oberlin College, and a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. He was a recipient of nine honorary doctorate degrees. For two years he was the William E. Suida Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. Mr. Cole held fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Kress Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a corresponding member of the Accademia Senese degli Intronati, the oldest learned society in Europe.
Mr. Cole served as a delegate on the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the boards of the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Norman Rockwell Museum, and as a Senate-appointed member of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. He was also a member of the boards of American Heritage and the Jack Miller Center. In 2010, Mr. Cole was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to a three-year term on Indiana University’s Board of Trustees.
In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Mr. 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 second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom among the honors the President can confer upon a civilian. Also in 2008, Mr. Cole was decorated Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor of the Republic of Italy.
In August 2013, Mr. Cole was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.
- January 8, 2018: Bruce Cole, R.I.P.