Humanities in the (White) House!

Photo: Courtesy Elaine Pagels

The White House became Cardinal territory this fall as professor of medicine Abraham Verghese lined up to receive the 2015 National Humanities Medal alongside visiting professor and poet Louise Glück and historian Elaine Pagels, ’64, MA ’65. Verghese, also an author, has worked to humanize the patient-physician relationship. “What is in the computer is the data set, but the living, breathing, sentient being who puts themselves in our hands is in the bed,” Verghese wrote to Stanford in a statement. Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton, has harnessed her research on early Christianity to inspire new engagement in our shared search for meaning. “It is not about what you believe; it’s about how you experience reality,” she has said of her 2003 book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. Former poet laureate Glück was acknowledged in her official citation for “giving lyrical expression to our inner conflicts” and for using verse to connect us to “the essence of who we are.” Glück’s books include the 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Wild Iris and Faithful and Virtuous Night, winner of the 2014 National Book Award.