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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.


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.


bell hooks

bell hooks has inspired generations of students, scholars, and activists across the Commonwealth and around the world. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, hooks authored over 30 books of poetry, fiction, and critical essays examining the intricate connections between sexism, racism, and economic disparity. Among hooks’ prolific works include Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism (1981), All About Love: New Visions (2000) and Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place (2012). A professor at universities around the country, hooks most recently taught at Berea College from 2004 until her passing in December 2021. Through her dedication to her craft, her lively creative vision, and her unflagging pursuit of ideas that will make the world a better place, hooks exemplifies the profound legacy that the Medallion for Intellectual Achievement seeks to honor.