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INDIANAPOLIS– The Indiana Historical Society announces that Rev. Cyprian Davis of St. Meinrad Archabbey has been named a recipient of the 2012 Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the award Dec. 3 during IHS’s annual Founders Day event at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.
The Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions over an extended period of time to the field of history or the affairs of IHS.
Davis has worked to bring national and international fame to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, and to Indiana. In 1950, Rev. Davis’ journey began when he was accepted as a novice to St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana, making him the first African-American member of the monastic community. In 1956, he was ordained to priesthood and has served on the faculty of St. Meinrad for nearly 50 years.
He has educated thousands of students in his courses on church history, and has helped train countless priests who now minister around the state and beyond.
Among Davis’ many publications is his 1982 textbook, “The Church: A Living Heritage,” which was used to teach church history at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, and other Catholic high schools throughout the state and country.
One of Father Davis’ major projects, his 1990 publication “The History of Black Catholics in the United States” resulted from his search for the documents and stories of African-American Catholics. In 1991, this book received the prestigious John Gilmary Shea Award from the American Catholic Historical Association. In collaboration with others, Davis has written or edited many other notable publications, such as “Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States” and “Stamped with the Image of God: African Americans as God’s Image in Black.”
Davis has traveled internationally, giving presentations on the development of monastic archives at monasteries in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Togo. He also taught church history at abbeys in Senegal and Nigeria. His commitment to historical education in Africa represents an effort to nurture the roots from which has grown the community whose life he has chronicled.
As a leading authority in the study of African-American Catholicism, Davis has received numerous accolades, including honorary degrees from several universities.
Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s “storyteller,” connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving, interpreting and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor exhibitions called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; and provides youth, adult and family programming.