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Wilfred McClay is the author of the “Land of Hope” American history
textbook. Courtesy | Hillsdale College Mar­keting Department

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.”