National Institute of Arts and Letters, The,

National Institute of Arts and Letters, The, was founded in 1898 and incorporated by Act of Congress in 1913 for the purpose of furthering literature and the fine arts in the United States. Limited to a membership of 250, the Institute presents medals and other awards for distinguished achievement, makes grants to further creative work of outstanding merit, and maintains a revolving loan fund to aid artists, musicians, ~and writers who are unable to continue their work without financial help.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded by the Institute in 1904, and incorporated by Act of Congress in 1916. Its membership is limited to fifty persons chosen for special honor from those who at any time have been members of the Institute. The Academy participates with the Institute in the award of grants and loans and also administers additional awards.

Alumni and members of the faculty have been elected to the Institute, in one of its three departments -- art, literature, musi~c -- in the following years:

1898 Parke Godwin 1834
*Henry Van Dyke 1873
*Woodrow Wilson 1879
1906 Robert Bridges 1879
Samuel McC. Crothers 1874
*Basil L. Gildersleeve 1849
1908 *Booth Tarkington 1893
Ridgley Torrence 1897
Jesse Lynch Williams 1892
1911 George McL. Harper 1884
Andrew Fleming West 1874
1912 John Grier Hibben 1882
1913 *Frank Jewett Mather, Jr.
1914 *William J. Henderson 1876
1916 Howard Russell Butler 1876
Ernest Poole '02
1923 *Gifford Reynolds Beal '00
*Eugene O'Neill '10
1926 Struthers Burt '04
1927 Paul Van Dyke 1881
1928 Burton E. Stevenson 1894
*Thornton Wilder A.M. '26
1930 Abram Poole ,Jr. '04
1932 *John Taylor Arms 09
1938 James Boyd '10
*Roger Sessions
1942 Ralph Barton Perry 1896
1946 David Adler '04
Robert P. Tristram Coffin A.M. 1916
Aymar Embury II '00
1949 *Allen Tate
1956 Richard P. Blackmur
1962 *George F. Kennan '25
1965 Milton Babbitt
1968 William Meredith '40
1969 Andrew W. Imbrie '42
1975 Austin Warren Ph.D. '26

Henry Van Dyke was president of the Institute from 1909 to 1911. George F. Kennan was president of the Institute from 1965 to 1968 and of the Academy from 1967 to 1971. Allen Tate was president of the Institute 1968-1969.

Five Princetonians have been awarded the Institute's annual gold medal:

1922 Eugene O'Neill (drama)
1933 Booth Tarkington (fiction)
1952 Thornton Wilder (fiction)
1955 Edmund Wilson (essays and criticism)
1961 Roger Sessions (music)

*Subsequently elected also to the Academy.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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