President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed Shelly C. Lowe, executive director of the Native American program at Harvard University, to serve as the 12th president of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Lowe, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, has been one of 26 members of the National Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences since 2016, an advisory board appointed by the president who reports to the president of the agency. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first Native American to head the federal agency, which annually provides more than $ 100 million in grants to cultural and educational institutions.
Lowe is also the second woman in the agency’s history to receive the nomination. In a press release on Tuesday, Lowe said she hoped to continue contributing to the advancement of the humanities in her capacity as president.
“My time at the National Humanities Council has been extremely rewarding and I look forward to continuing to serve and advance the humanities in this new role,” said Lowe. “Ensuring that the American people have access to humanities institutions, resources, and programs is absolutely essential to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. “
Established in 1965, the National Endowment for the Humanities provides grants to cultural institutions, including universities, libraries, radio stations and museums, in accordance with its dual mission of advancing excellence in the humanities and transmitting history to Americans, according to the agency’s website.
Former NEH Acting President Margaret Plympton, whose 2017-18 tenure straddled Lowe’s time on the Council, said Lowe was well placed to report to both the academic and public areas of the humanities.
“She’s very plugged into the scholarly aspects of the humanities, but also the important aspects of public engagement in the humanities and how the humanities can inform work in our societies,” said Plympton.
William R. Ferris – a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who served as NEH chairman from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton – said Lowe’s vast experience made her a ” superb ”nomination.
“She has served on the National Endowment for the Humanities Board, which approves all grants, so she is intimately aware of how the agency process works,” he said. “She will bring a fresh and long-awaited voice of a vision for America that the agency will embrace in a deep and powerful way.”
Lowe – who declined to comment – has led HUNAP since 2009. Prior to Harvard, she was associate dean at Yale and worked as an administrator at the University of Arizona.
Jon P. Peede, who chaired the NEH under President Donald Trump, also endorsed Lowe’s appointment in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Shelly Lowe will be a great @NEHgov chair,” Peede wrote. “I congratulate President Biden on his appointment. She will also be an excellent colleague for agency staff.
Under Trump, some University affiliates feared that federal research funding from agencies such as the NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts would be cut. Former university president Drew G. Faust wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in 2017, arguing for the rescue of the NEH when it was threatened with elimination.
Ferris praised the Biden administration for appointing people like Lowe to advance the humanities.
“I have confidence in the Biden administration – the vision and the quality of the people they have selected for the various appointments always seem to be well done, with great care,” he said. “And that [nomination] reflects that.