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Michael Novak, Director of Social and Political Studies and the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy, American Enterprise Institute

September 11, 2008

Michael Novak

Michael Novak received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion (a million-dollar purse awarded at Buckingham Palace) in 1994, and delivered the Templeton address in Westminster Abbey. He has also received the Boyer Award in 1999; with Milton Friedman and Vaclav Klaus the International Prize by the Institution for World Capitalism; the Antony Fisher Prize for The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism presented by Margaret Thatcher; the Weber Award for contributions to the Catholic Social Thought in Essen, Germany; the Cezanne Medal from the City of Provence, and the Catholic Culture Medal of Bassano del Grappa in Italy; the highest civilian award from the Slovak Republic in 1996; and in 2000, the Masaryk Medal, presented by Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic.

Theologian, author, and former U.S. ambassador, Michael Novak currently holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., where he is Director of Social and Political Studies.

His writings have appeared in every major Western language, and in Bengali, Korean and Japanese. His masterpiece, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, has been reprinted often in Latin America, and was published underground in Poland in 1984, and recently in Czechoslovakia, Germany, China and Hungary. One reviewer called it “one of those rare books that actually changed the world.”

Mr. Novak has written some 25 influential books in the philosophy and theology of culture, including: The Open Church (1964), Belief and Unbelief (1965,1994), The Experience of Nothingness (1970, 1998), The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics (1972,1996), The Guns of Lattimer (1976,1996), Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age (1983), Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology (1986), and Free Persons and the Common Good (1989). Together with the Lay Commission on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, he wrote Toward the Future (1984) and, with a scholarly committee, The New Consensus on Family and Welfare (1987). His other books include This Hemisphere of Liberty (1990), The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1993), The Joy of Sports (1976,1994), To Empower People: From State to Civil Society (1996), Business as a Calling (1996); The Fire of Invention (1997), and with his daughter Jana Novak, Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter’s Questions About God (1998); On Cultivating Liberty (1999); and his newest book, A Free Society Reader (2000). Mr. Novak has also published two novels: The Tiber was Silver (1961), Naked I Leave (1970).

His essays and reviews have been published in The New Republic, Commentary, Harper’s, First Things, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and National Review, as well as Theological Studies, The Yale Law Journal, The Public Interest, The Review of Politics, and many other journals here and overseas.

“Illusions and Realities,” his twice-weekly column was syndicated nationally from 1976-1980 and was a Pulitzer finalist in 1979. He took leave of the column in 1980 to complete two books and resumed weekly publication in 1984. His column “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” appeared monthly in National Review from 1979 until 1986. From 1989 to 1994 Forbes Magazine ran his occasional column, “The Larger Context.”

He serves on editorial boards of several publications and organizations here and abroad. He was co-founder of This World, Crisis, and First Things, and was publisher/editor of Crisis until 1996.

In 1974, Mr. Novak campaigned for the creation of a White House Office of Ethnic Affairs. The office was opened during the Ford administration, continued under President Carter, and Mr. Novak served as an advisor during both administrations.

Mr. Novak was appointed and served as: Ambassador of the U.S. Delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, 1981-1982; head of the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the monitor of the Helsinki Accords), 1986; with Senate approval, member of the Board for International Broadcasting (the private corporation that governs Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), 1984-1994; member of the Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice, 1985. He has served the United States during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

His teaching career began as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard. From 1965-68 he was Assistant Professor of Humanities at Stanford, where in two out of his three years, the senior class voted him one of the two “most influential professors.” From 1968 to 1973 he taught at the newly formed experimental College at SUNY Old Westbury. During 1973-1974, Mr. Novak launched the new humanities program at the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1976 he accepted a tenured chair as University Professor and Ledden-Watson Distinguished Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. He held the W. Harold and Martha Welch chair as Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame for the autumn semesters of 1987 and 1988. Intrigued by the relationship between religion and economics, he joined AEI as a Resident Scholar in the spring of 1978.

He graduated (Summa Cum Laude) from Stonehill College (B.A., Philosophy and English) in 1956 and the Gregorian University in Rome (B.A. Theology, Cum Laude) in 1958. He continued theological studies at Catholic University and then at Harvard, where he received an M.A. in 1966 in History and the Philosophy of Religion. Among other rewards he has received are: the Freedom Award of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (1979); the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation (1984); the Angel Award (1985); first U.S. member, Argentine National Academy of Sciences, Morals and Politics (1985); Ellis Island Medal of Honor (1986); the Bratislava Medal (1998); the Economics Medal (2000) from the Institute of Italian Managers and Entrepreneurs (IDI); and more than 15 honorary degrees, here and abroad.

Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1933, Michael Novak is married to Karen Laub-Novak, a professional artist and illustrator. They have three children, Richard, Tanya, and Jana, and three grandchildren.


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