Publication Date

October 1, 1990

Perspectives Section


National History Day founder David Van Tassel, Benton Professor of History, Case Western Reserve University, was one five scholars to receive NEH’s Charles Frankel Prize. The awards, each of which carries a stipend of $5,000, commemorate the late Charles Frankel, professor of philosophy, Columbia University, and assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, first president and director of the National Humanities Center. The purpose of the prize is to honor humanities scholars who have through their achievements brought a greater understanding of the texts, themes, and ideas in history, literature, philosophy, and other humanities disciplines to a general audience.

Professor Van Tassel was nominated by the AHA for his role as founder and president of National History Day, the only nationwide history competition that recognizes secondary school students for excellence in historical research and analysis. The competition was started in 1974 in order to give secondary school teachers a tool to stimulate the interest and enthusiasm among their students for the study of history. Although National History Day began as a local Cleveland competition, it has grown to more than 300,000 secondary school students and 50,000 teachers in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Each June the state competitions culminate in national finals held at the University of Maryland, College Park.

A specialist in U.S. social history and gerontology, Professor Van Tassel has written and edited several works.

Nominations for the Frankel Prize may be submitted by state humanities councils, museums, libraries, historical societies, public television, colleges and universities, and other such sources.

The other four recipients of this year’s Frankel Prize were: Mortimer J. Adler, Director of Chicago’s Institute for Philosophical Research and author of many works on education, philosophy, and the history of ideas; Henry Hampton, founder and president of the media production company, Blackside, Inc., and executive producer of the documentary film series Eyes on the Prize; Bernard M.W. Knox, director emeritus, Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies and author of several works geared towards the general reader on classical civilization and drama; and Ethyle R. Wolfe, provost emerita, Brooklyn College, architect of the college’s core curriculum and a well-known speaker on the importance of liberal arts education.