ΦBK Award Winners 2019

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By Sarah Al-Arshani 

Read about ΦΒΚ winners and finalists for this year’s MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, Root 100, Carnegie Medals, Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes.

MacArthur Foundation Fellowships

MacArthur Fellows are chosen for their outstanding talent and potential for imminent breakthrough. The Fellowship Awards each class of recipients a total of $625,000, no-strings-attached award over the course of five years. The work of winners has the capacity to benefit the nation and the world. This year’s fellowship winners feature five Phi Beta Kappa members:

Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson (ΦΒΚ, Swarthmore College) examines how “evolving concepts of freedom and equality are experienced in our daily lives,” explains the MacArthur Foundation. Anderson uses empirical evidence on issues of importance such as racial segregation and has made “pivotal contributions” to debates on topics like the ethical limitations of markets, the effects of gendered distributions of power on the production and reception of knowledge, and the concept of equality. 

Criminal justice reformer Lisa Daugaard (ΦΒΚ, University of Washington) is described by the MacArthur Foundation as “pioneering approaches to the growing problem of substance abuse with the goal of protecting communities, improving public health, and saving lives.” Duagaard is developing an alternative to standard drug law enforcement and as a former public defender is a primary architect of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program in King County (Seattle, Washington). She serves as director of the Public Defender Association (PDA) and is supporting the adaptation of the Seattle LEAD model to other localities through PDA’s LEAD National Support Bureau

Mary Halvorsen (ΦΒΚ, Wesleyan University) is a “virtuosic performer and adventurous composer,” according to the MacArthur Foundation. “Halvorson defies convention with her idiosyncratic, sonic explorations at the intersection of jazz and rock.” She is a guitarist, ensemble leader, and composer who is pushing against established musical categories and “melds her jazz roots with elements of experimental rock, folk, and other musical traditions, reflecting a wide range of stylistic influences,” explains the award announcement. Halvorsen has helped produce Dragon’s Head (2008), Away with You (2016), and the ambitious double album Code Girl (2018) where she composed both original music and lyrics for a quintet. 

Jeffrey Alan Miller (ΦΒΚ, Princeton University) is a literary scholar focused on early modern English literature and theology and is shedding light on the emergence of key ideas about the role of faith in daily life and government among Reformation and Renaissance scholars. For the MacArthur foundation, “Miller’s expansive view of the writing process and of what constitutes a draft manuscript are changing our understanding of seminal works at the foundation of modern Christianity, philosophy, and literature.” Miller studies the works of John Milton and his contemporaries and integrates careful readings of surviving manuscripts into the larger context of theological, political, and cultural debates that shaped their writing.

Evolutionary anthropologist Jenny Tung (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) is investigating the interplay between social experiences, genomics, and health. “Tung is illuminating the epigenetic consequences of social behaviors and environmental conditions,” explains the MacArthur foundation. Thereby, she is “advancing the emerging discipline of evolutionary medicine and providing new insights for improving human health.” Tung utilizes field research and cutting-edge techniques to study many genes simultaneously and is revealing the molecular mechanisms by which social and environmental stressors have long-lasting impacts on health, longevity, and evolutionary fitness. 

Pulitzer Prizes

The Pulitzer Prizes celebrate the year’s best and most impactful writing in journalism, literature, and music. It was established in 1917 at the bequest of Joseph Pulitzer. 

Matt Hamilton (ΦΒΚ, Boston College) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting alongside two of his Los Angeles Times colleagues, Harriet Ryan and Paul Pringle, for their consequential reporting on a gynecologist accused of violating hundreds of young women for more than 25 years at the University of Southern California. 

Richard Powers (ΦΒΚ, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) received the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for The Overstory, which was described by the Pulitzer announcement as “an ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.”

Root 100

The Root 100 is an annual list of the most influential African American innovators, leaders, public figures, and game changers between 25 to 45 years old. It honors those whose work from the past year is breaking down barriers and paving the way for the next generation. This year’s honorees feature three Phi Beta Kappa members.

At only 28 years old, William Tarpeh (ΦΒΚ, Stanford University) is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University. Tarpeh utilizes innovative approaches to find more effective and useful ways to reclaim and recycle liquid waste for a more positive impact on the environment.

Described by The Root as one of the “most prolific and intellectual writers on race, culture, and politics in this generation,” Ta-Nehisi Coates (ΦΒΚ,Oregon State University) is significantly contributing to the conversation reparations. He is also the author of The Water Dancer and a former national correspondent for The Atlantic.

Manu Platt (ΦΒΚ, Morehouse College) is an associate professor at Georgia Tech and was inducted into the prestigious American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows, which comprises the top two percent of medical and biological engineers and is the highest professional distinction in the field. He co-founded Project ENGAGES at Georgia Tech and has been diversifying the study of engineering, cell biology, and physiology for 10 years. He’s also continued his groundbreaking study of tissue remodeling in HIV, sickle cell and cardiovascular disease to address global health disparities.

Nobel Prizes

Along with two other recipients, William G. Kaelin Jr. (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) earned this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability” (Nobel Foundation).

Along with two other recipients, John B. Goodenough (ΦΒΚ, Yale University) earned this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “for the development of lithium-ion batteries” (Nobel Foundation).

Michael Kremer (ΦΒΚ, Harvard College) was one of three awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel this year “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty” (Nobel Foundation).

National Book Awards

Since 1950, the National Book Awards have honored the year’s finest publications across multiple categories. The works of two Phi Beta Kappa authors were honored as winners:

Arthur Sze’s (ΦΒΚ, UC-Berkeley) Sight Lines (Coper Canyon Press) was the poetry winner. In this book, Sze used a wide range of voices but balances rigor with passion to “seize the significant and luminous and transforms these moments into riveting and enduring poetry” (publisher’s description). 

Susan Choi’s (ΦΒΚ, Yale University) Trust Exercise (Macmillan) was the fiction winner. The book “will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults” (publisher’s description). 

Andrew Carnegie Medals Longlist

A total of 49 books (24 fiction, 25 nonfiction) have been selected for the longlist for the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Two Medal winners will be selected and each will receive $5,000. 


Ta-Nehisi Coates (ΦΒΚ,Oregon State University) who is also one of six finalists for The Water Dancer (Ballantine/ One World)

Edwidge Danticat (ΦΒΚ,Columbia University) for Everything Inside (Knopf) 

Siri Hustvedt (ΦΒΚ,Saint Olaf College) for Memories of the Future (Simon & Schuster)

Madhuri Vijay (ΦΒΚ,Lawrence University) for The Far Field (Grove)


Elliot Ackerman (ΦΒΚ, Tufts University) for Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning (Penguin)   

Patrick Radden Keefe (ΦΒΚ,Columbia University) for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday)  

ΦΒΚ member Sarah Al-Arshani is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut where she majored in journalism and political science. The University of Connecticut is home to the Epsilon of Connecticut chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Additional member research was conducted by national office interns and 
ΦΒΚ members Aliza Sitrin and Katherine Avery.