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2015 Founder's Literature Award: Edward M. Coffman

Military historian, author, and educator Edward M. Coffman was awarded one of two inaugural Founder's Literature Awards at the Museum & Library's 2015 Liberty Gala, presented for an immense contribution to furthering the public’s understanding of military history and affairs.

A graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he is honored in the university’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni, Edward M. "Mac" Coffman was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) as a student and served from 1951-1953 as an Army infantry officer in Korea and Japan. Following his discharge, he returned to Kentucky to pursue a PhD in History, later accepting a position as an instructor at Memphis State University. In 1961, Coffman joined the history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served on the faculty until his retirement in 1992 and helped to develop one of the best military history programs in the nation.

Author of numerous books and scholarly articles, Coffman’s most famous works include The War to End All Wars—considered the authoritative work on American military involvement in World War I—The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898, and it’s long-awaited sequel, The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941—winner of the Spencer Tucker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Military History. In the latter two books, Coffman drew upon government records and firsthand accounts to study the lives of the people that make up our Armed Forces and the families who support them.

Coffman has also served as an associate for the George C. Marshall Research Foundation and as visiting professor at Kansas State University, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He was awarded the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service by the Department of the Army for his extensive contributions to the development of the army historical program, and in 1990, received the Society for Military History Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of military history.