URI Professor Robert Ballard among recipients of 2003 National Humanities Medal

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President Bush makes presentation in Oval Office ceremony

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 17, 2003 — Marine explorer Robert Ballard, professor of oceanography and director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, was among 10 distinguished Americans awarded the 2003 National Humanities Medal on Friday in Washington.

President George W. Bush presented the medals at a White House ceremony to honor Ballard, Joan Ganz Cooney, Midge Decter, Joseph Epstein, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Jean Fritz, Hal Holbrook, Edith Kurzweil, Frank M. Snowden Jr., and John Updike.

The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals whose work has deepened the nations understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americas access to important resources in the humanities.

“Dr. Ballards award and the work upon which it is based is especially important and gratifying because it brings together the worlds of science and the humanities for scholars, citizens and children in ways that capture the imagination of all. We are proud of the work of Dr. Ballard and his many colleagues, and we are delighted at the news of this award,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers.

Ballard is best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, but he has conducted more than 100 deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned vehicles. He has succeeded in finding numerous other shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the American aircraft carrier Yorktown, and the patrol boat PT-109 piloted by John F. Kennedy during World War II. A National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, Ballard received the Societys prestigious Hubbard Medal in 1996.

After earning his doctorate at URI, he spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. He now conducts public outreach surrounding marine exploration through exhibits and programming at the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium, where he is founder and president. His current research project seeks evidence of a great flood in the Black Sea, linked to the Noah’s Ark story, that may have struck the region thousands of years ago.