Professional News

Paul Evans Holbrook Jr. honored with UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement

Dr. Paul Evans Holbrook, Jr.
Dr. Paul Evans Holbrook, Jr. working

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 9, 2024) — University of Kentucky Libraries is proud to honor Paul Evans Holbrook Jr., Ph.D., as the 2024 recipient of the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement. Holbrook will be recognized at the UK Libraries Spring Celebration on May 16.

A man of many talents, Holbrook’s professional life has wound through the academy, the ministry, fine printing and even restauranteurship. At every stage, his warmth, passion and a commitment to the ideal of excellence in all things has guided his success.

“Over his 35 year tenure as the director of the King Library Press, with infectious enthusiasm and thoughtful guidance, Paul has mentored countless individuals who have learned at his side and carried on Lexington’s long tradition of letterpress printing,” said Doug Way, dean of UK Libraries. “I am thrilled to recognize Paul’s many decades of contributions to the UK community through his teaching and craftsmanship, and to the broader Lexington community through his civic and charitable works.”

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Denison University, and both a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Harvard Divinity School, Holbrook obtained a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Kentucky. His doctoral dissertation is entitled "The Metaphoric Function: Myth, Metaphor and the Achievement of Meaning." He taught philosophy, ethics and comparative religion at UK and ethics at Midway College (now Midway University) for 25 years.

Holbrook has been active in the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington since his ordination to the diaconate in 1975, and is a long-time member of the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis. He has served as a board member for the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, and is a founding member of the organization’s Community Preservation Committee. He currently serves on the boards of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre, the Warwick Foundation, Lexington Directions and the Kentucky Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters, and is an Honorary Gaines Fellow.

Holbrook began to apprentice at UK Libraries’ King Library Press 50 years ago in June of 1974, under the direction of its founder Carolyn Reading Hammer. He has served as the director of the Press since 1988. With his five decades of experience in letterpress printing, typography, book binding and all facets of the book arts, Holbrook carries forward the tradition and spirit of fine printing that has long been alive in Lexington. He is the co-editor of The Letters of Thomas Merton and Victor & Carolyn Hammer, published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2014. He is currently at work on a biography of the artist and typographer Victor Hammer.

In 2006, Holbrook became a co-owner and operator of Stella’s Kentucky Deli, a farm-to-table cafe in downtown Lexington, where he has since worked with partners Aumaine Mott and Lester Miller. Currently he serves in various capacities, including as the baker of Stella’s pies.

“I was completely surprised and shocked to learn that I had been chosen as recipient of the Medallion for 2024,” said Holbrook. “If I had already finished writing my intellectual, spiritual, aesthetic biography of Victor Hammer — which I was asked to write long ago by Carolyn Hammer — I might have considered myself a potential candidate for this honor. But now I hope this unexpected award will provide the necessary impetus for me to happily bring the biography to completion.”

One of UK’s most prestigious awards, the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement is awarded annually to a Kentucky resident whose accomplishments in the fields of science, literature, art or philanthropy have made a profound impact on the Commonwealth and represent the pinnacle of creative or scholarly thought.

Selections are determined by the UK Libraries National Advisory Board, who take great pride in recognizing high intellectual achievement by Kentuckians and encouraging creative thought across the Commonwealth.

Holbrook will be recognized among several other award winners:

The Spring Celebration will be held on Thursday, May 16, at William T. Young Library on UK’s campus. The awards presentation will begin at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are required.

As the premier research library in the Commonwealth, UK Libraries empowers lifelong learners to discover, create and connect by providing ever-expanding access to quality information and collaborating with academic and creative communities worldwide to advance knowledge, enhance scholarship and preserve the history and culture of the Commonwealth. More information about UK Libraries can be found on its website.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.