Writer Thornton Wilder receives the first annual Edward MacDowell Medal in 1960 from Edward MacDowell Association President James Johnson Sweeney. (Herbert Whitney photo)
Writer Thornton Wilder receives the first annual Edward MacDowell Medal in 1960 from Edward MacDowell Association President James Johnson Sweeney. (Herbert Whitney photo)

Medal Day History

Since the Edward MacDowell Medal was first awarded in 1960, artists who have received this honor include Leonard Bernstein, John Updike, Georgia O’Keeffe, I.M. Pei, and Merce Cunningham. The artistic discipline in which the award is given rotates in order to celebrate all of the creative fields practiced at MacDowell. The Medal Day ceremony features not only the honoree but also a well-known presentation speaker who is familiar with the Medalist’s work. Past speakers include visual artist Richard Serra, writer William Styron, and Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Robert Campbell.

Scroll down for a complete list of MacDowell Medalists, along with the presentation speaker for each year. (Asterisks denote Colony Fellows.)

Peter Sellars Introduces Toni Morrison to the 2016 Medal Day Crowd.

Watch Medal Day Speeches since 2013 at our Vimeo page.

Below you can find text of speeches from previous Medal Days

Read Kiki Smith’s 2009 Speech

Thom Mayne’s 2008 Speech

Read Les Blank’s 2007 Speech

Alice Munro’s 2006 Speech

Medalists and Introductory Speakers Over the Years



1960 Thornton Wilder* introduced by Edward Weeks

1961 Aaron Copland* introduced by Irving Kolodin

1962 Robert Frost introduced by Aaron Copland*

1963 Alexander Calder introduced by Meyer Shapiro

1964 Edmund Wilson introduced by Aaron Copland*

1965 Edgard Varese introduced by Milton Babbitt

1966 Edward Hopper introduced by Lloyd Goodrich

1967 Marianne Moore introduced by Glenn Wescott

1968 Roger Sessions introduced by Edward T. Cone

1969 Louise Nevelson introduced by John Canaday

1970 Eudora Welty introduced by Elizabeth Janeway

1971 William Schuman introduced by Aaron Copland*

1972 Georgia O’Keeffe introduced by Eric Larrabee

1973 Norman Mailer introduced by John Leonard

1974 Walter Piston introduced by Michael Steinberg

1975 Willem de Kooning introduced by Dore Ashton

1976 Lillian Hellman introduced by John Hersey

1977 Virgil Thomson* introduced by Alfred Frankenstein*

1978 Richard Diebenkorn introduced by John Canaday

1979 John Cheever introduced by Elizabeth Hardwick

1980 Samuel Barber introduced by Charles Wadsworth

1981 John Updike introduced by Wilfred Sheed

1982 Isamu Noguchi introduced by William Lieberman

1983 Elliott Carter introduced by Michael Steinberg

1984 Mary McCarthy introduced by Elizabeth Hardwick

1985 Robert Motherwell introduced by Varujan Boghosian

1986 Lee Friedlander introduced by John Szarkowski

1987 Leonard Bernstein* introduced by Ned Rorem*

1988 William Styron introduced by George Plimpton

1989 Stan Brakhage introduced by John Hanhardt

1990 Louise Bourgeois introduced by Robert Storr

1991 David Diamond* introduced by Joseph Polisi

1992 Richard Wilbur introduced by Richard Howard

1993 Harry Callahan introduced by Anne Tucker

1994 Jasper Johns introduced by Kirk Varnedoe

1995 George Crumb introduced by Christopher Rouse

1996 Joan Didion introduced by Elizabeth Hardwick

1997 Chuck Jones introduced by John Canemaker

1998 I. M. Pei introduced by J. Carter Brown

1999 Ellsworth Kelly introduced by James Cuno

2000 Lou Harrison introduced by Dennis Russell Davies

2001 Philip Roth introduced by William Styron

2002 Robert Frank introduced by Philip Brookman

2003 Merce Cunningham introduced by Meredith Monk*

2004 Nam June Paik introduced by John Hanhardt

2005 Steve Reich introduced by David Lang* and Richard Serra

2006 Alice Munro introduced by Virginia Barber

2007 Les Blank introduced by Frederick Wiseman

2008 Thom Mayne introduced by Robert Campbell

2009 Kiki Smith introduced by Lynne Tillman*

2010 Sonny Rollins introduced by Gary Giddins*

2011 Edward Albee introduced by Mike Nichols

2012 Nan Goldin introduced by Luc Sante

2013 Stephen Sondheim introduced by Frank Rich

2014 Betye Saar introduced by Lowery Stokes Sims

2015 Gunther Schuller (posthumous) introduced by Yehudi Wyner and Terrance McKnight

2016 Toni Morrison introduced by Peter Sellars

*MacDowell Colony Fellow