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With the Medallion for Intellectual Achievement, UK Libraries recognizes a Kentucky resident whose accomplishments in the fields of science, literature, art, or philanthropy have made a profound impact on the Commonwealth and represent the pinnacle of creative or scholarly thought.

The award is presented during the annual UK Libraries National Advisory Board’s Spring Celebration. View a list of all past award recipients and learn more about our most recent winners below.


Paul Evans Holbrook, Jr.

Dr. Paul Evans Holbrook, Jr. has served as the Director of the King Library Press since 1988, and with five decades of experience in the book arts, he carries forward the tradition and spirit of fine printing that has long been alive in Lexington. A man of many talents, Holbrook taught philosophy, ethics, and comparative religion at UK and Midway College for 25 years, and has been active in the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington since his ordination to the diaconate in 1975. He currently serves on the boards of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre, the Warwick Foundation, Lexington Directions, and the Kentucky Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters, and is an Honorary Gaines Fellow. In 2006, Holbrook became a co-owner and operator of Stella’s Kentucky Deli, where he serves in various capacities, including as the baker of Stella’s pies.


John R. Thelin

John R. Thelin, Professor Emeritus of Educational Policy Studies & Evaluation, began teaching at the University of Kentucky in 1996 and was named as a University Research Professor in 2001. Dr. Thelin's teaching and research interests focus on the history of higher education, public policy, and philanthropy. The winner of numerous awards for teaching excellence, Thelin is also recognized for his exemplary research and engaging writing. Among his several books are Going to College in the Sixties (2018) and A History of American Higher Education (2004), which has become the standard work in the field. Throughout his career, Thelin has demonstrated an abiding interest in connecting his scholarship to his community, and contributed to an award-winning amicus brief on college student-athletes that was influential in the 2021 Supreme Court case NCAA v. Alston.


Tracy Campbell

A native Kentuckian and UK alumnus, Tracy Campbell has been teaching at UK since 1999 and currently serves as the E. Vernon Smith and Eloise C. Smith Professor of American History in the College of Arts and Sciences. Campbell has been repeatedly recognized for his outstanding teaching and exceptional scholarship, winning the UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award in 2010 and a Stanton Foundation Grant in 2019, among many other honors. He is the author of five books, including Year of Peril: America in 1942, the winner of the 2021 Barbara and David Zalaznick American History Book Prize from the New-York Historical Society, and is a frequent contributor to public radio and television programs.