Courtesy David Kennedy

It must be the chair. Four scholars have held the Coe Professorship of History and American Studies, and each has won a Pulitzer Prize. David Kennedy's was announced April 10.

He was honored for Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, a 936-page magnum opus that was 11 years in the writing. "We've established a firm tradition," Kennedy, '63, says. "Every person who has been seated in the Coe chair has won a Pulitzer. First there was David Potter, then Donald Fehrenbacher, then I held the chair briefly, and now it's Jack [Rakove]. So the chair is a charm."

Rakove was one of the first people to pop his head into Kennedy's office on the day the prize was announced. "Did you win?" he asked. "As a matter of fact, I did," Kennedy replied. Unbeknownst to Kennedy, Rakove was one of the three jurors who picked this year's nominees.

Kennedy was nominated for a 1981 Pulitzer for Over Here: The First World War and American Society, but he lost to a book about 19th-century education. He prefers this year's result: "I think it was Nixon who said, 'I've won and I've lost, and I can tell you winning feels better.' "