ECU history professor Larry Tise is creating a searchable database housing information on the world's most distinguished academic awards. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU historian focuses on the world of academic awards

Dec. 10, 2014

By Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

As the latest round of Nobel Laureates are bowing their heads to receive medals this week, an East Carolina University professor will be leaning into a computer screen crunching numbers on the world’s great academic awards—the Nobels and 183 others.

Through years of research, historian Larry E. Tise of ECU's Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences has become the world's leading authority on the history, development and current status of academic awards. And for the first time, he’s sharing his knowledge in a searchable database online.

“You can Google and find out information on almost anything in this day and age, but it’s actually really hard to find good data on this $10 billion awards industry,” said Tise, who is the Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History at ECU.

It is the fifth time in the last 20 years that Tise has compiled and updated the rankings, which is the only directory of the most distinguished awards, prizes and honors on Earth.

Tise has counseled with a handful of scholars at other universities through the years, as well as tapped into assistance from ECU graduate students for building the new online database. “ECU has proved to be a wonderful perch for expanding this unique research on awards,” he said.

At ICDA.org, the website for Tise’s non-profit organization called the International Congress of Distinguished Awards, users can learn about the history of awards, sign up for the 2015 awards conference in Washington, D.C., or explore the comprehensive listing of academic awards.

“This ranking doesn’t list those (awards) for sports or entertainment,” Tise said. “It’s basically things that are accomplished through major discoveries at universities and higher education.”

While many people are closely following football between October and December, Tise gets a big kick out of watching what he claims to be the world’s other great fall sport. He’s been studying academic awards since 1989 when he realized no such resource existed.

Tise said he finds it fascinating because “the oldest ritual in human society is giving awards. When a society needed food, they would send out hunters and whichever hunter brought back the best game got awarded. It’s something engrained in human nature; it’s a universal instinct.”

To learn more about ICDA or the rankings of academic awards, visit ICDA.org.