The WISE Prize for Education


Dr. James H. Billington

Position: Librarian of Congress
Country: United States of America
James Hadley Billington has served as the Librarian of Congress since September, 1987. He is the  13th person to hold the position since the Library was established in 1800.

Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in June, 1929, Dr. Billington was educated in the public schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. Three years later he earned his doctorate from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College.

Following service with the U.S. Army, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962 and subsequently at Princeton University where he was Professor of History from 1964 to 1973. From 1973 to 1987, Dr. Billington was Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the author of numerous books on Russian history, and has been awarded more than 40 honorary doctorates and numerous other honors, including the Woodrow Wilson Award from Princeton University, the UCLA Medal, the Likhachev Prize, and the inaugural Lafayette Prize of the French-American Cultural Foundation. He was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Dr. Billington has championed the Library's "American Memory" National Digital Library Program (www.loc.gov) and the World Digital Library (www.wdl.org), an international collaboration led by the Library of Congress, involving UNESCO and cultural institutions from around the world. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Open World Leadership Center, a nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress that has brought more than 17,000 emerging young political leaders from Russia and other successor states of the former Soviet Union to communities throughout America.