2023 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities Honorees Named

Mass Humanities announces the recipients of the 2023 Governor’s Awards in the Humanities. The foundation will honor four individuals for their commitments to education, civil and human rights, community development and philanthropy on September 28 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Presented in partnership with Governor Maura Healey, Mass Humanities will recognize Margaret Burnham, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, Kumble Subbaswamy and Elizabeth Bacon for their contributions to the humanities and improving public life in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts is home to a thriving humanities sector that makes our state more enlightened, innovative and inclusive,” said Governor Healey. “I’m proud to present the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities to these four leaders in recognition of the exceptional contributions they have made in education, history, community development, philanthropy, civil rights and more. I’m also grateful to the Mass Humanities Board for their partnership and the incredible work they do to expand opportunities across our state.”

• Margaret Burnham, of Boston, is an internationally recognized expert on civil and human rights, comparative constitutional rights, and international criminal law. As a Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University, she is the founder and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern and the first African American Judge in Massachusetts. Burnham is being honored for her dedication to exploring history, illuminating truth and confronting injustice in order to protect civil and human rights locally, nationally and internationally.

• Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, of Boston, is the CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, Boston. She has had a long and multifaceted career demonstrating a commitment to the humanities within education, community development, and philanthropy in Boston and across the state. Calderón-Rosado is being honored for her work that actively promotes Latinx culture and builds community through the arts in Boston’s South End and for her contributions to shaping a more equitable philanthropic ecosystem in Massachusetts.

• Kumble Subbaswamy, of Amherst, is the retiring Chancellor of UMass Amherst and a committed public education advocate. Subbaswamy is being honored for his commitment to education and transformative work at UMass Amherst. His work building a campus culture centered on social responsibility and inclusiveness are essential elements in the humanities.

• Elizabeth Bacon, of Worcester, is the coordinator of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, Worcester. She has been a long-time leader, on-the-ground coordinator, and advocate in the humanities. Her extensive contributions to the humanities includes her work at This is MYCity! and Worcester’s Blackstone Canal Horse and Wagon Tours. Bacon is being honored for her excellence in using history as a tool for community development and economic empowerment and tirelessly advocating for the humanities in her home city and across the state.

“Massachusetts is a better place because of the contributions made by this year’s Governor’s Awards honorees,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “They continue to break barriers, elevate the voices of their communities, and contribute to our understanding of the Commonwealth and the nation. We thank Governor Healey for partnering with us this year to celebrate these transformational humanists.”

Since 2014, Mass Humanities has hosted the Governor’s Awards to recognize excellence in the humanities. Past awardees include: Callie Crossley, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., J. Hubie Jones, Margaret Marshall, Atul Gawande, Ellen Dunlap, Jessie Little Doe Baird and Sonia Nieto among others.

Mass Humanities collaborates with the Office of the Governor to recognize individuals whose public actions enhance civic life in the Commonwealth through a deep appreciation of the humanities.

Proceeds from sponsorships, ticket sales and direct donations benefit the organizations and programs that Mass Humanities supports each year including Expand Massachusetts Stories, The Clemente Course in the Humanities, Reading Frederick Douglass Together and the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit.

In 2022, Mass Humanities provided over $1 million in direct funding to more than 100 organizations across the commonwealth. Read our 2022 Annual Report here. 

For further information, contact John Lynds, Director of Communications, at [email protected].

To support the 2023 Governor’s Awards, contact Jill Brevik, Manager of Annual Giving, at [email protected].

Mass Humanities, a non-profit foundation based in Northampton, creates opportunities for the people of Massachusetts to transform their lives and build a more equitable Commonwealth through the humanities. Since its founding in 1974, the organization has provided millions of dollars to support thousands of humanities projects across Massachusetts. Established as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Mass Humanities is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural Council and private sources. For more information, visit www.masshumanities.org or connect on social media at:




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