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Harvard professor Robert Putnam to be honored at the White House on Wednesday

Posted by Your Town  July 9, 2013 04:13 PM

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A Harvard professor whose book "Bowling Alone'' examined the changing role of community in the United States will receive the 2012 National Humanities Medal from President Obama on Wednesday.

Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, along with 11 other people, will receive the National Humanities Medal in the East Room of the White House, a White House statement said.

At the ceremony, 12 people and organizations will also be awarded the 2012 National Medal of the Arts, according to the statement. Michele Obama is also expected to attend.

Putnam is being honored “for deepening our understanding of community in America,” according to the statement.

“Examining how patterns of engagement divide and unite, Dr. Putnam’s writing and research inspire us to improve institutions that make society worth living in, and his insights challenge us to be better citizens,” the statement said.

In a phone interview today, Putnam said that humanities medal recipients tend to be novelists or historians, not social scientists.

“I was pretty shocked,” Putnam said. “This is very distinguished company, of course, that I’m being included in.”

According to his biography on Harvard’s website, Putnam teaches courses on public policy to undergraduate and graduate students. He is the past president of the American Political Science Association, and in 2006, he was awarded the Skytte Prize, one of the world’s highest honors for a political scientist.

He has written 14 books, including the bestseller “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”

Putnam said he has regularly consulted US presidents on his research. But this is the first time he is receiving an award at the White House.

“I’m honored by it,” he said.

He also said that this medal is not just for him, but for his researchers.

“I have had a large research team over the years,” Putnam said. “This award is not just for me personally, but for my researchers too.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

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