William D. Adams

William D. Adams is a senior fellow at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Mr. Adams was the tenth chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2014 to 2017.  Shortly after arriving at NEH, Adams launched an agency-wide initiative titled The Common Good:  Humanities in the Public Square.  The initiative seeks to demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to the life of the nation during a time of unprecedented domestic and global challenges.

Under the rubric of The Common Good, NEH launched a number of new grant lines, including the Public Scholar Program, Common Heritage, Dialogues on the Experience of War, Next Generation Humanities PhD Grants, Humanities Connections, NEH-Mellon Fellowships for Digital Publication, Open Book, Creating Humanities Communities, and Humanities Access Grants.  During his tenure at NEH, Mr. Adams also sought to deepen the engagement of the agency with community colleges and veterans groups and causes.

Prior to joining NEH, Mr. Adams served as president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, from 2000 until his retirement on June 30, 2014.  He also served as president of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania from 1995–2000.  A native of Birmingham, Michigan, Mr. Adams earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a PhD from the history of consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar before beginning his career in higher education with appointments to teach political philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He went on to coordinate the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University and to serve as vice president and secretary of Wesleyan University.  Mr. Adams's formal education was interrupted by three years of service in the Army, including one year in Vietnam.  In each of his professional roles, Adams has demonstrated a deep commitment to the humanities and to the liberal arts.