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Transylvania President Emeritus Charles L. Shearer receives Henry Clay Medallion

Shearer receives Henry Clay Medallion
President Emeritus Charles Shearer, center, with Governor Steve Beshear, right, and George McGee as Henry Clay.

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania University President Emeritus Charles L. Shearer was awarded the 2010 Henry Clay Medallion for Distinguished Service from the Henry Clay Society during a December 2 black tie dinner at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion.

A committee of the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation selected Shearer for the honor in recognition of the achievements in his personal and public life that reflect Clay’s principals of statesmanship and compromise for the good of mankind.

Shearer retired from the presidency of Transylvania in July 2010 after 27 years in that office, the longest such service in the 230-year history of Kentucky’s oldest college. His tenure saw substantial increases in the university’s enrollment and endowment, the addition of eight new buildings and two athletics fields and a rise in the rankings of national liberal arts colleges.

“Whether it was his relationship with the chairman of the board and other trustees, or with faculty, staff and students, Charles’s use of diplomacy has always been most evident,” said Warren W. Rosenthal, a member of the Transylvania Board of Trustees, in introducing the honoree. “For 27 years President Shearer was highly respected, deeply appreciated and loved by all.”

In accepting the award, Shearer noted the close relationship that Clay enjoyed with Transylvania in its formative years, serving as a professor in the university’s law school and remaining a trustee and friend until his death in 1852.  

“Henry Clay was one of Transylvania’s guardian angels in its early years,” Shearer said. “In the president’s office in Old Morrison, a portrait of Mr. Clay hangs over the fireplace. As I worked in that historic building, he was a constant presence and reminder of the heritage of Transylvania and of the leaders who helped shape our country.”

Noting the many illustrious individuals who had preceded him in receiving the Henry Clay Medallion, Shearer said the award was a signal honor. Among the previous winners are Sandra Day O’Connor, William T. Young, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao, and Nancy Kassebaum-Baker and Edward J. Kennedy.

“Dick DeCamp (president of the foundation) explained to me that the medallion is awarded to individuals who reflect the many admirable characteristics of its namesake,” Shearer said. “I am honored to be included in such extraordinary company with Mr. Clay. This is an evening and an award that I will always remember and treasure.”

The Henry Clay Society was established in 1994 to bring attention to the national prominence of Henry Clay as a great American statesman and to establish an endowment providing for the preservation of Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate. The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation exists to preserve Ashland as a museum, educational center and National Historic Landmark.

Shearer serves as an honorary director on the foundation’s board and was a founding member of the board of directors for The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship.

Transylvania, founded in 1780, is the nation’s sixteenth oldest institution of higher learning and is consistently ranked in national publications as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.