Keynote & Co-Chairs

A Letter from our 2019 Gala General Chairmen

We are honored to serve as the General Chairmen for the 2019 Hermitage Gala benefiting the Andrew Jackson Foundation’s education and public programming, as well as assisting the presidential home with its ongoing preservation and restoration projects.  We are proud to announce that Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Rick Atkinson will serve as our keynote speaker. In addition, The Jackson Award and The Lewis R. Donelson Award will be given on this special evening, celebrating two very special honorees that have shown leadership, impactful public service and commitment to our state.

Your gracious support of The Hermitage Gala will help the Foundation to provide more than 400 education and public programs this year, as well as projects vital to the preservation of this 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark once called home by our 7th president. Because of you, students at the local, state and national levels will experience history through on-site classes, web conferencing, educator workshops and both guided and multimedia tours.

Last year alone, the Foundation was able to provide:

  • 337 programs presented to nearly 12,000 students
  • More than 27,000 children with education programming and on-site experiences
  • Hands on History
  • Travelin’ Classrooms
  • TRIAD (Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders) with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
  • All Booked Up!
  • Living History Demonstrations
  • More than 100 events and public programs
  • Fall Fest
  • Holidays at The Hermitage
  • Naturalization Ceremony
  • Presidential Trivia Night
  • Andrew Jackson’s Birthday Celebration
  • Spring Outing
  • Mother’s Day Tea and Fashion Show
  • Dog Days at The Hermitage

We hope you can join us for this very special evening of historical celebration and support for Andrew Jackson’s beloved Hermitage!  With your help, the Andrew Jackson Foundation will continue its mission to preserve, educate and inspire future generations of leaders.

Kim Holbrook and Robin Puryear, 2019 General Chairmen


Atkinson, keynote speakerRick Atkinson, Keynote Speaker

Rick Atkinson is the author of seven narrative histories spanning five American wars. His most recent book is The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, which spent more than a month in the top ten on the New York Times bestseller list and is the first volume in a planned trilogy on the American Revolution. Reviewer Joseph J. Ellis wrote in the New York Times Book Review, “To say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing.” George F. Will, writing in the Washington Post, noted “[Atkinson has a] felicity for turning history into literature.” The Times [of London] added, “Atkinson is a superb researcher, but more importantly a sublime writer. On occasion I reread sentences simply to feast on their elegance.”

Atkinson previously wrote the Liberation Trilogy, a narrative history of the liberation of Europe in World War II. The first volume, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, received the Pulitzer Prize and was acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as “the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan’s classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.” The second volume, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, drew praise from the New York Times as “a triumph of narrative history, elegantly written…and rooted in the sight and sounds of battle.” The final volume of the Liberation Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, published in May 2013, ranked #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The Wall Street Journal called it “a magnificent book,” and the New York Times Book Review described it as “a tapestry of fabulous richness and complexity…The Liberation Trilogy is a monumental achievement.”

Atkinson is the best-selling author of The Long Gray Line, a narrative saga about the West Point class of 1966, and Crusade, a narrative history of the Persian Gulf War. He also wrote In the Company of Soldiers, an account of his time with General David H. Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003; the New York Times Book Review called the book “the most intimate, vivid, and well-informed account yet published” about that war, and Newsweek cited it as one of the ten best books of 2004. He is the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic in 2007, and the volume editor of Cornelius Ryan, an anthology published by Library of America in 2019.

Atkinson’s awards include the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for history; the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting; and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for public service, awarded to the Washington Post for investigative articles directed and edited by Atkinson on shootings by District of Columbia police officers. He is winner of  the 1989 George Polk Award for national reporting, the 1989 John Hancock Award for excellence in business writing, the 2003 Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award, the 2007 Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense, the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, the 2013 New York Military Affairs Symposium award for lifetime achievement, and the 2014 Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement from the Society for Military History. In December 2015 he received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, previously given to Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, and David McCullough.

Atkinson has served as the Gen. Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College, where he remains an adjunct faculty member. He is a Presidential Counselor at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, a member of the Society of American Historians, and an inductee in the Academy of Achievement, for which he also serves as a board member. He serves on the governing commission of the National Portrait Gallery.

Atkinson worked as a reporter, foreign correspondent, and senior editor for two decades at the Washington Post. His last assignments were covering the 101st Airborne during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and writing about roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Previously he served as the assistant managing editor for investigations. Atkinson’s journalism career began at the Pittsburg (Kansas) Morning Sun in 1976; in 1977, he moved to the Kansas City Times, before going to the Washington Post in 1983.  Among other assignments, he served as the Post’s Berlin bureau chief, covering not only Germany and NATO, but also spending considerable time in Somalia and Bosnia.

Born in Munich, Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from East Carolina University and a master of arts degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He and his wife, Dr. Jane Chestnut Atkinson of Lawrence, Kan., a researcher and clinician at the National Institutes of Health, live in the District of Columbia. They have two grown children, Rush, a criminal trial attorney for the Justice Department, and Sarah, a colorectal surgeon at the University of Washington Medical Center.