150 Years

Frank Deford '61 Receives National Humanities Medal From President Obama

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 07/10/2013
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Frank Deford '61 joins director of athletics Gary Walters '67 following Deford's appearance at a 2007 PVC Speaker Series event.
Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications

TigerBlog On Frank Deford

Frank Deford, who helped usher in the modern era of multimedia sports commentary while never losing sight of the importance of the written word, was among 12 recipients of the National Humanities Medals Wednesday.

President Obama presented the medals in a ceremony at the White House.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

"Frank Deford in the second half of the twentieth century was the Grantland Rice of sports writing, but with a significant difference: he established higher standards for journalistic integrity and insightful reporting complemented by his personal wit, compassion, and humanity" commented Gary Walters '67, The Princeton Ford Family Princeton Director of Athletics. "We in the Princeton Athletic family are grateful that Frank's basketball abilities paled in comparison to his writing; otherwise, we would have been deprived of his writing genius! Frank is incredibly deserving of the National Humanities Medal because he is the very personification of the award's meaning."

Frank Deford, whose undergraduate years included a tenure as chairman at the Daily Princetonian, is a member of the Princeton Class of 1961, and he graduated with a degree in sociology. Among his litany of honors, he is a six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year, an Emmy Award winner and soon to be the first sportswriter ever honored with the National Press Foundation's highest honor, the W.M. Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism.

He is known largely for his writing for Sports Illustrated, but he has also written for publications such as Newsweek and Vanity Fair, as well as written novels centered around sports – including “Everybody’s All-American”  - and outside of sports.

He has also been an essayist for National Public Radio and HBO’s “Real Sports” among his many appearances on radio and television, where he has been a pioneer in one of the biggest trends of modern media, the crossover of sportswriters into broadcast journalism.

He is known more for his social commentary, issue analysis and long-form feature profiles than for simple game coverage. His work has transcended that of any traditional standards of sports journalism that existed when he began his career.

His citation for the National Humanities Medal reads as follows: Frank Deford, sports writer, for transforming how we think about sports. A dedicated writer and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offered a consistent, compelling voice in print and on radio, reaching beyond scores and statistics to reveal the humanity woven into the games we love.

In addition to Deford, medals will be given to historians Edward L. Ayers and Natalie Zemon Davis; academic leaders William G. Bowen and Jill Ker Conway; authors Joan Didion and Marilynne Robinson; political scientist Robert D. Putnam; poet Kay Ryan; editor Robert B. Silvers; actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith; and photographer Camilo José Vergara.

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