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McClay Receives George Washington Honor Medal

OU’s Wilfred McClay named recipient of the George Washington Honor Medal presented by Freedoms Foundation.


University of Oklahoma award-winning educator, author and G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, Wilfred McClay has been named recipient of the George Washington Honor Medal presented by Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The award honors an understanding and appreciation for our country’s rich heritage, principles and unique freedoms.  McClay will be honored at an awards ceremony in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Feb. 8.

“We are very fortunate to have a person of Wilfred McClay’s ability as a member of the OU faculty,” said OU President David L. Boren.  “The OU family adds it congratulations to him for receiving this meaningful recognition.”

McClay, who joined the OU faculty this past June, teaches “The Idea of Freedom” and “The Idea of Tradition” as the holder of the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair, is devoted to teaching students about the evolution of the concept of liberty in Western civilization. Before joining the OU faculty in 2013, he founded the Center for Reflective Citizenship at the University of Tennessee, which provides training and enrichment for K-12 teachers of history, government, and social studies.

A recipient of many teaching awards and honors, he also has earned fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Academy of Education.

McClay’s research interests focus on the intellectual and cultural history of the United States, with particular attention to the social and political thought of the 19th and 20th centuries; the history of American religious thought and institutions; and the theory and practice of biographical writing. His book The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America won the 1995 Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians.

He earned his bachelor of arts degree cum laude from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., in 1974, and his doctoral degree in history from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1987. He has taught at Tulane University, Pepperdine University, Georgetown University and the University of Dallas and as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Rome.

Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge was founded in 1949 as a non-profit education organization dedicated to helping students, teachers and citizens gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the principles of a free and democratic society.  Each year the organization presents educational and awards programs to foster engaged citizenship, through the exploration of civics, U.S. history, student entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and constitutional rights and responsibilities. Their purpose is to educate and inspire citizens of all ages and encourage them to make a positive contribution in their communities. It is a way for them to say thank you to those whose projects, words or deed bringing about the best in the spirit of America.