Yale Awards Wilbur Cross Medals to Graduate School Alumni

The Alumni Association of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences awarded six Wilbur Lucius Cross Medals at the School’s Commencement Convocation yesterday.

The medalists, who all earned doctorates from Yale, are William Cronon (1990, History), Hong Koo Lee (1968, Political Science), Julia Phillips (1981, Applied Physics), Barbara Schaal (1974, Biology) and Philip G. Zimbardo (1959, Psychology). A special Wilbur Cross Medal will be presented to outgoing Dean Peter Salovey (1986, Psychology), following the School’s tradition of honoring the departing dean. Salovey is stepping down from the Graduate School to become dean of Yale College.

Cronon is an innovative educator and a pioneering environmental historian. He taught at Yale, 1981-1992, after earning a D.Phil. from Oxford. He then joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, where he holds that school’s most distinguished appointment, the Vilas Research Professorship. He has been designated a Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, MacArthur Fellow and Guggenheim Fellow. His first book, winner of the Parkman Prize, “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England,” put environmental history in the center of American historical writing. “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West,” winner of the Bancroft Prize, revealed how urban, rural and western history formed an unexpected whole, how numbers told human stories and how technology transformed America everywhere. His writing has transformed scholarly understanding of the American west.

After graduating from Yale, Lee held professorships at Emory, Case Western Reserve University and, for 20 years, at Korea’s flagship institution of higher learning, Seoul National University. In 1988 he entered his country’s newly democratic government, serving in increasingly responsible and demanding positions: Minister of National Unification, Special Assistant to the President, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister. Later, at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, he was posted to Washington as Ambassador to the United States. He now serves as chairman of the Seoul Forum for International Affairs-the equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Phillips’ research at Bell Laboratories led to key advances in semiconductor technology. She transferred into research management at Bell Labs and then Sandia National Laboratories, where she is responsible for critical programs at the nation’s largest and most complex technical organization. Her service on advisory boards of professional societies and national agencies for over two decades has been generous and effective. Her national leadership in promoting science education for young women was recognized by the very first U.S. Department of Labor Woman’s Bureau Horizon Award.

Salovey assumed leadership of the Graduate School when Susan Hockfield became Provost last year, and his tenure, though brief, will be remembered for his warmth, energy, commitment to graduate education and sense of fun. He will become dean of Yale College in July. His pioneering scholarship on “emotional intelligence” explores the interplay between human feeling and intellect, and his research on HIV and AIDS has increased the possibility of prevention and early detection of these world-crippling diseases. The citation honoring Salovey reads, in part, “For the energy and warmth of your academic leadership, the range and public significance of your scholarship and for your vivid exemplification of the scholar-teacher, the Graduate School Alumni Association is proud to award you its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.”

Schaal, professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, applies state-of-the-art theory and technique to the study of plant evolution. Recently she turned her attention to the conservation of plant diversity, the potential benefits and perils of genetically modified crops and the origins of invasive species. Her seminal work on cassava documented genetic variation among the wild progenitors of that plant, leading the way for other phylo-geographic analyses. She has consistently been a voice of reason on the politically charged landscape where science meets society.

Zimbardo’s work demonstrates the power of social situations for good and evil. At Stanford for the past 35 years, he conducted studies that now appear in every psychology textbook. Perhaps most famous is the Prison Experiment, in which he demonstrated the power of social roles and institutional forces in shaping behavior. A beloved teacher, he has taught more Stanford students, in a wider variety of courses, than any other professor in the school’s history. He was elected President of the American Psychological Association twice, has received honorary degrees on three continents, and earned every possible teaching commendation.

The Medal is named for Wilbur Cross (1862-1948), who was outstanding in many fields. He was a distinguished scholar of English literature, having earned his Ph.D. from Yale in 1889. He was editor of the Yale Review for almost 30 years, and author of “The Life and Times of Laurence Sterne” (1909), “The History of Henry Fielding” (1918) and other books on the English novel. He joined the Yale faculty in 1894, and from 1916 to 1930 was the first dean of the newly re-organized Graduate School. Following his retirement from Yale, he was elected governor of Connecticut for four terms.

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