Clay Jenkinson is one of the most sought-after humanities scholars in the United States
A cultural commentator who has devoted most of his professional career to public humanities programs, Clay Jenkinson has been honored by two presidents for his work. On November 6, 1989, he received from President George Bush one of the first five Charles Frankel Prizes, the National Endowment for the Humanities highest award (now called the National Humanities Medal), at the nomination of the NEH Chair, Lynne Cheney. On April 11, 1994, he was the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event when he presented Thomas Jefferson for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. When award-winning humanities documentary producer Ken Burns turned his attention to Thomas Jefferson, he asked Clay Jenkinson to be the major humanities commentator. Since his first work with the North Dakota Humanities Council in the late 1970s, including a pioneering first-person interpretation of Meriwether Lewis, Clay Jenkinson has made thousands of presentations throughout the United States and its territories, including Guam and the Northern Marianas.
In 2008, Clay became the director of The Dakota Institute through The Lewis & Clark, Fort Mandan Foundation, to further expand his humanities programs with documentary films, symposiums and literary projects. He is also the Chief Consultant for the Theodore Roosevelt Center through Dickinson State University and conducts an annual lecture series for Bismarck State College.
Clay is also widely sought after as a commencement speaker (he has several honorary doctorates); as a facilitator of teacher institutes on Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Classical Culture, the Millennium, and other topics; as a lecturer on topics ranging from the "Unresolved Issues of the Millennium," to the "Character of Meriwether Lewis"; as a consultant to a range of humanities programs, chiefly first person historical interpretation (Chautauqua). Best known for his award-winning historical impersonations of Thomas Jefferson, Clay Jenkinson also impersonates other characters, including Meriwether Lewis, John Wesley Powell, Robert Oppenheimer, Theodore Roosevelt and John Steinbeck.