For the second year in a row, a Hillsdale faculty member has won the prestigious Bradley Prize.
Wilfred McClay, Victor Davis Hanson Chair in Classical History and Western Civilization, will receive the award in May.
The award, sponsored by the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, recognizes individuals for “outstanding achievements” that work to “restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism,” according to the organization.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” McClay said. “Mostly because of the parade of other people, past winners of the prize, many of them among my intellectual and moral heroes, whose company I am now being permitted to join.”
A committee considered more than 100 nominations this year and selected three winners: Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng, economist Glenn Loury, and McClay. The trio will be recognized at a ceremony on May 17 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Each prize comes with a $250,000 award.
“It will be such an honor to share the stage with Glenn Loury and Chen Guangcheng, both of them heroic figures, men whose bravery and achievements far eclipse mine,” he said.
Past winners include four people with Hillsdale connections: Senior Journalism Fellow Mollie Hemingway (2021), President Larry Arnn (2015), Hillsdale College Distinguished Fellow and British historian Sir Martin Gilbert (2009), and visiting professor and historian Victor Davis Hanson (2008).
“I’m tremendously happy to receive this award after having joined the faculty at Hillsdale College,” McClay said. “I pinch myself almost every day since I have arrived here, thinking it must be a dream to be part of this place.”
Before coming to Hillsdale, McClay taught history at the University of Oklahoma. He attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, and earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.
“Bill is one of those rare scholars whose work can inspire a veteran who lived through World War II as much as a teenager who is just beginning to learn about it,” said Rick Graber, president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation.
McClay’s 2019 book, “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story,” won the Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2020 Conservative Book of the Year Award. His 1994 book “The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America” won the 1995 Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians.
Mark Kalthoff, professor and chairman of the history department, said McClay’s award is a “high honor that we celebrate with him.”
“The Bradley Prize is awarded to scholars and public figures whose accomplishments align with the Bradley Foundation’s mission to restore, strengthen, and protect foundational American principles and institutions that have animated the American Heritage,” Kalthoff said. “This is also an important part of our work in the Hillsdale College history department.”
McClay said he appreciates the award’s recognition of “the urgent importance of history.”
“History is to the nation what memory is to the individual person, and when we lose it, or have our real history replaced by myths and falsehoods, we cease to know who or what we really are, or what we can aspire to be,” he said.
McClay said Hillsdale’s Western and American heritage classes are examples of the type of education that should be taught across the nation.
“This college has become a beacon to a confused and disoriented world,” he said. “Students here at Hillsdale are part of a very great and noble work, just by virtue of being here.”