Bruce Cole, renaissance scholar who led National Endowment for the Humanities, dies at 79

Historians in the News
tags: National Endowment for the Humanities, Bruce Cole, obituary



Bruce M. Cole, a Renaissance scholar who chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities for much of the George W. Bush administration and proselytized for the teaching and meaning of civilization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died Jan. 8 at a vacation residence in Cancun, Mexico. He was 79. 

The cause was a heart attack, said a son, Ryan Cole. 

Dr. Cole, who retired from Indiana University as a distinguished professor emeritus of fine arts and professor emeritus of comparative literature, became chairman in December 2001 — less than three months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. He said he saw his role as NEH leader as an element in the newly declared war on terrorism.

“Defending our homeland requires not only successful military campaigns,” he told Humanities magazine in 2002. “It also depends on citizens understanding their history, their institutions, and their ideals. The humanities show us what it means to be an American, and why America’s ideals are worth fighting for.”

He added: “I see works of art as primary documents of a civilization. The written document tells you one thing, but a painting or a sculpture or a building tells you something else. They are both primary documents, but they tell you things in different ways.” ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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