Yale Graduate School to honor four distinguished alumni

The Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will award Wilbur Cross Medals — the school’s highest honor — to four alumni on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

This year’s honorees are: inventor Eric R. Fossum, historian Thomas C. Holt, reproductive rights expert Kirsten Luker, and economist Edmund Phelps.

Each of the alumni will present a lecture on Oct. 14. The talks are free and open to the public. The topics, times, and locations follow:

  • “Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Arc: Pixels to Products and Onwards to Jots,” by Fossum, 4 p.m. in Davies Auditorium, Becton Center for Engineering and Applied Science, 15 Prospect St.
  • “Writing the History of the Civil Rights Movement: A Personal Reflection” by Holt, 4 p.m. in Rm. 102, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St.
  • “Abortion, Contraception, and the Neoliberal Moment” by Luker, noon, Rm. A60 in the Watson Center, 60 Sachem St. (near Prospect Street).
  • “Bringing in Imagination, Creativity and Culture to Understand the West’s Past and Present” by Phelps, 4 p.m. in Rm. 106, Department of Economics, 58 Hillhouse Ave.

Brief biographies of the 2014 Wilbur Cross Medalists follow:

Eric R. Fossum (Ph.D. 1984, engineering and applied science) is a scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and educator who holds more than 180 patents. While working on interplanetary spacecraft cameras for NASA at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1990s, Fossum devised a way to produce an ultra-small, inexpensive “camera on a chip” that is now an essential element in cell phones and tablets around the world. His groundbreaking work incorporating imaging-sensing devices onto semiconductor chips has led to innovations in medicine (pill cameras), the automotive industry (side-view and rear-view cameras), and filmmaking. He co-founded Photobit Corporation in 1995 to commercialize the technology. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recognized Fossum with the Andrew Grove Award in 2009 for his pioneering work on complementary metal-oxide semiconductor image sensors. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011, and in 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He teaches, conducts research, and coordinates the Ph.D. Innovation Program at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.

Thomas C. Holt (Ph.D. 1973, American studies), the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago, is a scholar of American, Caribbean, and transatlantic history; the African diaspora; and race relations. His first book, “Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction,” won the Charles S. Sydnor Prize from the Southern Historical Association and became required reading for generations of students. “The Problem of Race in the 21st Century,” the published version of Holt’s Nathan I. Huggins Lectures at Harvard University, re-envisioned the history of race relations in the United States. Holt served as president of the American Historical Association 1994-1995. His honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “genius” grant and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Social Science Research Council. Holt is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kristin Luker (Ph.D. 1974, sociology) is largely responsible for creating a new field of study focused on the intersection of reproductive rights and the American justice system. Her scholarship spans sociology, law, gender, family, and sexuality. Luker is the Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law, professor of sociology, and founding director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at the University of California-Berkeley. Her books include “Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and “Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy,” which was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Luker is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Sociological Research Association, which limits its membership to 150 scholars. Other honors include an Innovation in Scholarship Award from the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Ford, Spencer, and Guggenheim foundations.

Edmund Phelps (Ph.D. 1959, economics) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2006 for “his analysis of inter-temporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Phelps is the McVickar Professor of Political Economy and director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University, where he has been on the faculty since 1971. Phelps has advised governments and international organizations and was a charter member of the Economic Advisory Council of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He has consulted for the U.S. Treasury Department, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Federal Reserve Board. His many awards include honorary doctorates and election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Economic Association. The French government named Phelps a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and the Kiel Institute in Germany awarded him its Global Economy Prize. He has won the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Mendeleev Medal and the President’s Medal of the National University of Ireland, Galway.