Yale archivist receives inaugural Bouchet Award

Judith Schiff, chief research archivist, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Edward Bouchet Legacy Award, named after the first African-American graduate of Yale College.

The Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society established the award to recognize stalwart contributors to the growth and expansion of the Bouchet Society, which has co-founding chapters at Yale and Howard.

“Our knowledge of Bouchet’s life and academic achievements is due in large part to Schiff’s research and her dedication to preserving his legacy,” said Curtis Patton, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale, who presented the award to Schiff at the Bouchet Society's sixth annual forum in September at Howard University.

During her 50-year tenure at Yale, Schiff has worked on such significant Yale projects as the Tercentennial celebration, the World Special Olympics in New Haven and the archives of Charles Lindbergh and his family, one of the largest and most valuable collections in the Sterling Library archives. 

Schiff’s role has evolved to include reporting, teaching, and museum work. Since 1987, she has penned the “Old Yale” column, which reflects on historical figures and events, in the Yale Alumni Magazine.

The Yale archivist received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a master’s from Columbia University; she also earned a degree in library science from Southern Connecticut State College.

When Bouchet received his doctorate in physics from Yale in 1876, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from an American university. He was also the first African American in the country to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa. A portrait of Bouchet now hangs in the transept of Sterling Memorial Library.