Yale Announces Wilbur Cross Medal Winners for 2001

Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico, and three other distinguished alumni of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, will be awarded Wilbur Lucius Cross Medals at the School's Commencement Convocation on May 20.

Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico, and three other distinguished alumni of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, will be awarded Wilbur Lucius Cross Medals at the School’s Commencement Convocation on May 20.

This year’s other medal winners are biologist Elliot M. Meyerowitz, Chinese literature scholar Stephen Owen and psychologist Roger N. Shepard.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León earned his Ph.D. in economics from Yale in 1981 with a dissertation on Mexico’s external debt crisis. Born in Mexico, Zedillo attended college at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City. While still an undergraduate, he took a position in the government’s economic policy office and became active in the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). After graduating from Yale, Zedillo worked first as an economist in Mexico’s Central Bank, then served as minister of budget and planning and minister of education before he was elected President of his country in August 1994. He served in that position until 2000. He is credited with strengthening democratic institutions in Mexico, reforming the domestic economy, promoting political stability and expanding Mexico’s ties to countries around the world. During his tenure, he signed a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union and by the end of his term, Mexico had experienced four years of economic recovery, with annual growth averaging about five percent.

Elliot M. Meyerowitz is professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. His many honors include the National Academy of Sciences’ Richard Lounsbery Award (1999), Japan’s Internal Prize for Biology (1998), the Mendel Medal from the Genetical Society of Great Britain (1997) and the Gibbs Medal from the American Society of Plant Physiologists. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Meyerowitz made important contributions to Drosophila (fruit fly) genetics and developmental biology early in his career. His more recent discovery that Arabidopsis thaliana has the smallest genome of any of the known higher plants spurred a revolution in the plant biology community. His current work concentrates on the origin of developmental patterns in flowers, the control of cell division and the mechanisms of plant hormone action -all using Arabidopsis. After completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia University in 1973, Meyerowitz earned his Ph.D. in biology from Yale in record time, graduating in 1977 and winning the Nicholas Award for the Outstanding Biology Dissertation.

Stephen Owen earned both his B.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1972) degrees from Yale, specializing in East Asian Languages and Literatures. He taught at Yale for 10 years before moving to Harvard in 1982, where he is the James Bryant Conant University Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature. A distinguished scholar in the field of Chinese poetry, Owen is the author of a long list of widely admired and frequently taught books and articles, including “The Poetry of Meng Chiao and Han Yu,” “The Poetry of the Early T’ang,” “The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: the High T’ang,” “Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics: an Omen of the World” and “Readings in Chinese Literary Thought.” Among his honors are membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Fulbright, Guggenheim and ACLS fellowships.

Roger N. Shepard, the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor Emeritus of Social Science at Stanford University, is one of the founders of cognitive psychology and modern psychophysics. Early in his career, he invented non-metric multidimensional scaling, a statistical procedure that revolutionized the study of how humans classify and categorize objects in the environment. This technique is now considered a basic tool in cognitive science, used by clinical psychologists to develop classification systems for organizing mental disorders and by marketers to understand how consumers perceive the differences among competing products. His work on the mental rotation of images revolutionized the fields of perception and cognition. His 1990 book, “Mind Sights,” is considered required reading for students of cognitive psychology.

Shepard earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Yale in 1955. He taught at Harvard and was a researcher at Bell Labs, before joining the faculty of Stanford in 1968, where he taught

until 1996. His honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He won the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association-that organization’s highest honor. He is one of only a handful of psychologists ever to win the National Medal of Science.

Every year since 1966, alumni of the Graduate School have been honored for outstanding achievement in one or more of the areas in which Wilbur Lucius Cross excelled. A dean of the Graduate School from 1916 to 1930, he was noted as a scholar, editor, university administrator and, after his retirement from Yale, governor of Connecticut for four terms.

Former medalists include geneticist Francis Collins, environmentalist Thomas Lovejoy, economist Janet Yellin and author Thomas Wolfe.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325