NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Rutgers Living History Society will present its 2013 Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, familiar to millions of Americans for his many appearances on PBS’s The News Hour

The Rutgers Living History Society, comprised of participants in the Rutgers Oral History Archives program, will honor Beschloss at its annual meeting on Friday, May 17. Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi will present the award. 

“Oral history – the art of listening to people tell their own stories, and then making those stories available to others – is an essential tool of every practicing historian,” Beschloss said.

“Each such history provides a unique perspective on the larger history and helps us see that history is not just something that acts upon us, but something each of us acts upon. I’m very honored to be recognized by the Rutgers Living History Society, whose members have been actors in some of the great dramas of the past century,” he said.

Beschloss has made substantial use of oral history in his 11 books, of which three are classic examples of oral history’s importance as a crucial primary source for historians: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (Hyperion, 2011), Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes (Simon & Schuster, 1997), and Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson’s Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965 (Simon & Schuster, 2002). 

Beschloss was born in Chicago in 1955 and graduated from Williams College and Harvard Business School. At Williams, he studied under the eminent American historian James MacGregor Burns, who wrote the preface to Beschloss’s first book, Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance (HarperCollins, 1987). 

Since then, Beschloss has written several studies of presidential leadership, including Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev and the U-2 Affair (Harper & Row, 1988); The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (HarperCollins, 1991); The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945 (Simon & Schuster, 2003); and Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989 (Simon & Schuster, 2008). He is the co-author, with Hugh Sidey, of The Presidents of the United States of America (White House Historical Association, 2009); with Strobe Talbot of At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (Little, Brown & Co., 1994); and with Vincent Virga of Eisenhower: A Centennial Life (HarperCollins, 1990).

Beschloss is the NBC News presidential historian. He sits on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. He is senior associate member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, a senior fellow of the Annenberg Foundation and a Montgomery Fellow and Dorsett Fellow at Dartmouth College.

Besides his work on PBS and NBC, Beschloss has appeared several times on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. He received an Emmy Award in 2005 for his work on the Discovery Channel’s documentary Decisions That Shook the World.

Past winners of Rutgers' Ambrose Oral History Award have included Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson; Story Corps founder, David Isay; documentarian Ken Burns; and Studs Terkel.


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