The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has selected Roger Bagnall, an esteemed Columbia University professor of Classics and History, as one of four winners of its 2003 Distinguished Achievement Award. Now in its third year, the Foundation's Achievement Award honors scholars who have made significant contributions to the humanities. Award winners and their institutions are eligible for up to $1.5 million to continue programs, research and teaching in the recipients' areas of specialty.
Bagnall, who holds dual appointments in Columbia's classics and history departments, is an internationally respected and prolific historian of the Graeco-Roman world. He has gained widespread recognition for interpreting papyrus documents from Egypt, and has made important discoveries in many areas of Greek and Roman civilization -- from religion to language, and from social history to demography.
"Professor Bagnall has played a central role in putting his subject at the forefront of classical studies while also being an exemplary academic citizen," said the Mellon Foundation in a press release issued December 15. "He is a dedicated teacher, a vigorous promoter of the uses of technology in humanistic inquiry, and has served his field and his university to great effect."
"I am deeply grateful for this recognition from a foundation that has done so much to support and enhance humanities in this country," said Bagnall. "The award will ensure new opportunities for strengthening Columbia's programs and resources in the study of the ancient world."
Among the projects that will benefit from the Mellon Foundation funds are Columbia's excavations at Amheida in Egypt, the conservation and study of graffiti on plaster in the agora of ancient Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), and the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), an ambitious digital project Bagnall launched. The Columbia University Library system serves as the APIS's technology host. Some of the funds also will be used to buy books for the Libraries and to support graduate students.
The Mellon Foundation established the Distinguished Achievement Award to promote continued creative intellectual thought and research in liberal arts and the humanities throughout the nation's higher education system. Unlike other notable academic award programs that benefit the individual scholar exclusively, the Mellon grants are designed to recognize the interdependence of scholars and their institutions. Thus, while the award honors the significant achievements of Professor Bagnall, the funds, distributed over a three-year period, will be granted to, and overseen by, Columbia University. Bagnall will submit a proposed program plan and budget over the coming months to support his continued work as well as other new activities.
Dr. Bagnall was educated at Yale and the University of Toronto and came to Columbia in 1974 as an assistant professor. He served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1989 to 1993 and from 1994 to 2000 as chair of the Department of Classics; he has also been acting chair of the English and Italian departments. He is curator of the papyrus collection in the Columbia University Libraries. Among his honors are membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Academie Royale de Belgique.
The other Distinguished Achievement Award winners this year are: Robert B. Brandom, Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh; Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University and Christopher Ricks, Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.