The National Institute of Social Sciences is an association of public-spirited Americans, dedicated by service and philanthropy to the public good and joined together to recognize and celebrate those whose lives have manifested the highest level of achievement and to support doctoral students in the social sciences.

Each year the National Institute presents Gold Honor Medals to a small group of Americans—and occasionally others—who have contributed at the highest level to the welfare and improvement of society. In recent years, members established the Seed Grant Program to support top graduate students in the social sciences during the final years of their research.

The National Institute is supported by active, dues-paying members across the United States. Membership is open to all those interested in supporting the social sciences and participating in the National Institute's programming. If you are interested in becoming a member, please click the "Become a Member" link below.

The National Institute of Social Sciences has a rich history of recognizing the highest level of accomplishment, encouraging discussion, and supporting research. 

The National Institute had its origins in the American Social Science Association, or ASSA, which itself grew out of two earlier organizations. In October 1865, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew chaired a meeting of some 300 public-spirited citizens that established the American Association for the Promotion of Social Science, modeled on the British Social Science Association, “to plan measures of public improvement.” The following year, the American Association for the Promotion of Social Science merged with the Boston Social Science Association to form the ASSA.

During the ASSA’s first decades, general interest in the social sciences evolved into academic professionalization, and ASSA helped foster the creation of the American Historical Association (1884), the American Economic Association (1885), the American Political Science Association (1903), and the American Sociological Association (1905).

In 1898, the ASSA created the National Institute of Arts and Letters, modeled after the Académie Française. In time, National Institute of Arts and Letters transformed into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In 1899, the ASSA was “constituted a corporation” by an Act of Congress, and in 1912, the ASSA created the National Institute of Social Sciences as a separate department.

In 1913, the Institute presented its first Gold Medals for Distinguished Service to Humanity. That year, the honorees were Archer M. Huntington, philanthropist and founder of the Hispanic Society of America; Samuel L. Parrish, lawyer, noted art collector, and museum founder; and William Howard Taft, who was concluding his term as 27th President of the United States.

Subsequently, the Institute emerged as an independent organization. Its early leadership encompassed many prominent ASSA members, including James B. Angell, president of the University of Michigan, Daniel Cott Gilman, the first president of the Johns Hopkins University, and Andrew D. White, the first president of Cornell.

In 1926, by a second Act of Congress, the Institute assumed the ASSA federal charter “for the purpose of promoting studies and researches in the social sciences.” In the following decades, the Institute has remained true to this charge, presenting Gold Medals to distinguished honorees every year (except 1922) and establishing a vibrant branch in Palm Beach, Florida.

Since 2013, the Institute has sponsored an annual Seed Fund Program that provides financial support to graduate students in the social sciences during the final year of their doctoral research. 

Honorary Trustees

Dr. George E. Rupp

Mr. William vanden Heuvel

Dr. James D. Watson

Dr. Kenneth T. Jackson

Mr. Robert M. Morgenthau

Mrs. Arthur Ross


Officers & Trustees

Mr. Frederick R. Larsen

Mr. Kent L. Barwick
Vice President

Mrs. Joan K. Davidson
Vice President

The Rev. Thomas F. Pike
Vice President  

Prof. Nicholas A. Robinson
Vice President

Mr. William H. Told, Jr.
Vice President

Ms. Gracey Stoddard

Mr. R. Dyke Benjamin

Mr. James M. Ballentine, Jr.

Ms. Angela Cason

Mr. Joseph P. Flanagan


Mr. Robert F. Gregory

Ms. Judith Hernstadt

Mrs. Geraldine Kunstadter

Mr. Chauncey G. Olinger, Jr.



Mrs. Marie Powers

Mr. Peter Samton

Mr. Eric P. Widing

Executive Director

Dr. Timothy P. Cross


Florida Chapter

Mr. William H. Told, Jr.
Honorary Chair

Mr. Joseph P. Flanagan

Mr. Stewart B. Clifford
Vice Chair

Mrs. Natalie Grace Dejoux
Vice Chair - Luncheon

Mrs. William H. Told, Jr.
Vice Chair - Luncheon

Mrs. Owen R. McGivern

Mr. James M. Ballentine, Jr.


Executive Secretary

Mrs. May Bell Lin



Hamilton W. Mabie (1912–15)

Nicholas Murray Butler (1916)

Irving Fisher (1917)

Emory R. Johnson (1918–21)

Austin B. Fletcher (1922–23)

Helen Hartley Jenkins (1923)

Chester S. Lord (1924–25)

William C. Redfield (1926–31)

C. Stuart Gager (1932–34)

Henry Fletcher (1935–36)

William E. Hall (1937–41)

Colby M. Chester (1942–44)

Clarence G. Michalis (1945–49)

Hugh Bullock (1950–52)

Walter Hoving (1953–56)

Frank Pace, Jr. (1956–59)

Arthur K. Watson (1959–61)

Frank Pace, Jr. (1962–77)

Susan Hall Archdeacon (1977–79)

Geraldine Kunstadter (1979–81)

J. Sinclair Armstrong (1982–92)

Clifford V. Brokaw III (1992–94)

Bruce E. Balding (1994–97)

William H. Brinckerhoff (1997–2001)

Clarence F. Michalis (2001–06)

Chauncey G. Olinger, Jr. (2006–17)

Frederick R. Larsen (2017- )