Cook chosen for Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award

Princeton NJ -- Michael Cook, the Cleveland Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, has been selected by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as one of five winners of its Distinguished Achievement Award. The awards, in their second year, are intended to honor scholars who have made significant contributions to the humanities and to provide the recipients and their institutions with resources to deepen and extend humanistic research.

The three-year awards, amounting to as much as $1.5 million each, aim to underscore the decisive contributions the humanities make to the nation's intellectual life. In contrast to other notable academic award programs that benefit the individual scholar exclusively, the Distinguished Achievement Awards are designed to recognize the interdependence of scholars and their institutions. Accordingly, while this grant program recognizes the achievements of individuals, the grants themselves will support specific programs of activities that will enhance scholarship and teaching more broadly at the recipients' institutions.


Cook, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1986, is widely considered among the most outstanding Islamicists in America today. He has made major contributions to the intellectual history of the medieval Islamic world. His works on Muhammad and early Islamic theology have become classics.

Cook's recently published pioneering study of the interaction between morality and authority in Islamic belief and thought has garnered praise throughout the field and beyond. His scholarship draws upon a wide range of medieval and modern legal, literary and philosophical sources from across the lands and languages of the Islamic world.

"He has opened up important new avenues of scholarly inquiry for the study of Islamic civilization, and in the process has sensitized his readers to the general relevance of ethical questions in the study of history and society. Professor Cook is known as a conscientious teacher and mentor," the foundation said in a news release.

"The Mellon Foundation has a fine track record for generosity to Near Eastern studies," Cook said. "Suddenly being given the chance to do the things you really want to do is a fantastic opportunity, and I'm deeply grateful for it."

The other Distinguished Achievement Award winners this year are: Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Bernadotte Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Russian History at the University of Chicago; Michael McCormick, the Francis Goelet Professor of Medieval History at Harvard University; Jerome McGann, the John Stewart Bryan Professor of English at the University of Virginia; and Susan Wolf, the Edna Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Last year, two Princeton professors were among the first winners of the award: Peter Brown, the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, and Alexander Nehamas, the Edmund Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities and professor of philosophy and comparative literature.

Funds are granted to, and overseen by, the recipients' institutions. The uses of funds differ in each case and reflect the wide range of scholarly interests and institutional settings. In general, the awards underwrite recipients' salaries and research expenses, while also providing support for colleagues and students engaged in collaboration with the awardees. The recipients will be expected to spend at least two of the three years on their home campuses. Final selections were made by a panel of distinguished scholars.


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