University of Vermont

James Marsh Professors-at-Large Program

Clay Jenkinson Biography

Biography: Clay S. Jenkinson, Ph.D.

Director of The Dakota Institute
Founder and Chief Consultant for
the Theodore Roosevelt Center and
Scholar-in-Residence, Dickinson State University

Clay JenkinsClay Strauss Jenkinson, of Bismarck, North Dakota, has devoted his professional career to public humanities programs.  His undergraduate work was done at the University of Minnesota and he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Jenkinson is a co-founder of the modern Chautauqua movement, portraying Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, Theodore Roosevelt and other historical characters in first-person interpretations.  He has been honored by two presidents for this work. In 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. In 1994, he was the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event when he portrayed Thomas Jefferson at 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. Jenkinson has also performed as Thomas Jefferson on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

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 founder and Chief Consultant for the Theodore Roosevelt Center and Scholar-in-Residence at Dickinson State University, conducts an annual lecture series for Bismarck State College, and writes a weekly column for the Bismarck Tribune. Today, he is best known for his syndicated radio program, "The Thomas Jefferson Hour," in which he portrays the third President of the United States. You can listen to it on public radio or through ITunes.

  • Wednesday, March 28, 2012: The Character of Meriwether Lewis: Explorer In The Wilderness

  • Monday, January 31, 2011: Clay Jenkinson will discuss how his time at Oxford and his experience as a Rhodes Scholar has influenced his career as one of the country's most accomplished public humanities scholars and his life. Open to all students; those who are interested in studying in the United Kingdom either during or after college are especially encouraged to attend. More information: Student Fellowships Advisor Brit Chase, 802-656-4658 or

  • February 12, 2009: "Abraham Lincoln and the Text of America".

Last modified March 13 2012 12:07 PM

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